Tonawanda News

Features

May 2, 2013

Cheech and Chong back in the act, playing Riviera show

NORTH TONAWANDA — There have been some great duos in the history of comedy including Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, Burns and Allen, Lewis and Martin and The Smothers Brothers. At the top of many lists is the legendary comedy duo that is coming to North Tonawanda’s Riviera Theatre this Friday, Cheech and Chong. Chong’s wife, Shelby Chong, opens the show.

After years working the stand-up comedy circuit, Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong released their first comedy album in 1971 and quickly built a huge following for their unique brand of counter-culture humor with heavy doses of marijuana use. Their comedy albums led to a series of successful movies, including the cult classic “Up in Smoke” in 1978.

After a successful run through the 1970s and early ‘80s, the duo went their separate ways with Marin pursuing an acting career and Chong mainly focusing his stand-up career. In 2008 the duo reunited for a comedy tour and have been back together ever since.

“I never really left. Cheech left for his acting career. I hung around and did stand-up so when the time was right we got back together and it worked out fine,” Chong said during a recent phone interview.

“We actually divided and conquered America, because if we had stayed together we would have been old news. The fact we broke up when we did left people wanting more Cheech and Chong. “

In their years apart, Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong each remained successful in their own right. Nonetheless, longtime fans and a generation of people too young to catch them the first time around met the pair’s reunion enthusiastically.

Chong views his pairing with Cheech Marin as more than just good chemistry, he sees it as destiny.

“I’d always had partners before in bands, we’d put a band together and it would fall apart. Even before I had a band I had a funny guy I would hang around with and I would be the instigator. When Cheech and I met each other it was very cosmic. He moved to the area where I lived and even before we met he knew who I was. There was a special connection. I believe the forces of the universe wanted us to introduce hemp to the world in a non-violent manner, which we did. I think that was our mission.”

As crazy as that may sound to some people, there has been a wealth of scientific research touting the many benefits of hemp. Of late, hemp has seen increased use in nutrition and for medicinal purposes. Chong took hemp oil when he was battling prostate cancer, and while he would not go as far as to give the hemp oil full credit for being cancer free, he said, “it certainly didn’t hurt.”

“Hemp is more than just a couple of guys getting high and giggling at each other, it has some serious applications,” Chong noted.

Chong’s career has not been without its controversies. He spent nine months in jail for distributing bongs over the internet when he was caught up in a multi-million dollar sting operation called Operation Pipe Dreams. Some observers felt Chong was targeted because of his celebrity status and that law enforcement officials used questionable tactics to secure an arrest.

Tommy’s wife, Shelby Chong uses the arrest as fodder for some of her opening set. I asked Tommy how long it took him to be able to make jokes about his arrest and imprisonment.

“I had a big going into jail party in Grand Rapids Mich., where they presented me a cake with a file in it. That was pretty funny.”

Chong didn’t take his sentence lightly. For three years he was drug tested and never tested positive.

In recent years, Chong continues to hone his live act with Cheech Marin, who he affectionately calls his “brother.”

“It’s been a challenge because we have had to update some of the material but Cheech and I are really on the same wavelength. It’s also exciting because we have incorporated a lot more music into the show.”

 

1
Text Only
Features
  • SUN LIFE Open gardens 1 072014.jpg Stop and smell the flowers

    More than 90 private gardens throughout Western New York, and a number of public ones, are open to the public for select hours Thursdays and/or Fridays during July as part of the National Garden Festival’s Open Gardens program, now in its fifth year. The program is separate and distinct from local garden walks, and the gardens range from Gasport to Holland. They’re organized into districts of about five to eight gardens each, including Northtowns West (which includes gardens in Kenmore and the Town of Tonawanda) and Niagara Trail (which includes gardens in Lockport, Gasport and Lewiston).

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • SUN LIFE terrariums 1 072014.jpg For the love of nature

    Sara Johnson lives surrounded by green and growing things. Showing a visitor around her apartment in North Buffalo, she pointed out the plants in every room, the balcony and even in two small greenhouses — houseplants, flowers, vegetables, even carnivorous plants.

    "I try to keep as much growing in the house as I can," she said.

    Another goal of hers is to show others how to do the same — and to that end, Johnson is offering a series of workshops this summer in connection with her business, Sylvatica Terrariums, and Project 308 Gallery in North Tonawanda, teaching people how to bring a piece of the outdoors into their homes in the form of a terrarium or other greenery.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • SUN LIFE fresh air 1 072014.JPG Getting some fresh air

    As an effort to get children out of the big city and give them a chance to spend part of their summer playing outside, the Fresh Air Fund brings New York City kids to stay with host families for a 10-day trip to a place which is vastly different from their usually surroundings.

    “They will be running outside and playing in the grass and going swimming,” said Cheryl Flick, a fund representative of the Northern Erie and Niagara Counties chapter of the Fresh Air Fund at a picnic for the host families and kids. “They won’t be cooped up inside, they’ll be outside, getting fresh air and being active.”

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • sig - SUN LIFE double trouble 2014.jpg Still waiting for that letter from Hogwarts

    I think it’s true of many parents, that amidst the many challenges and hard work of parenting, we anticipate the day our children grow up just enough ... to like the same things we like, whether it’s as an ongoing phenomenon or a fond childhood memory.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • sig - critter companions RGB Calling all the basic locavores!

    Did you know that the suffix “vore” comes from the Latin word “voro,” which means to devour? I probably knew that once, but I should have paid better attention in my Latin class. “Vore” is used to form nouns indicating what kind of a diet an animal has, such as omnivore, carnivore and herbivore.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • SUN LIFE NT tours 071314.jpg A closer look at NT

    When Explore Buffalo Tours got started about eight months ago, the business concentrated on specialized tours designed to showcase specific aspects of the City of Buffalo’s history, architecture and culture.

    Now the organization is looking to the future and trying out ways to highlight the other unique aspects of the Western New York region. The tours change out each month, but the more popular ones will circulate back in, according to Explore Buffalo Executive Director Brad Hahn. This month it’s test-driving its “North Tonawanda: Lumber City” tour, one of only a few to take place outside the City of Buffalo. (Although a Lockport tour is in the works.)

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • SUN LIFEe exercise 2 071314.jpg Fitness in the sun

     Following a trend of public, outdoor exercise programs, a number of local venues are offering their own free events aiming to get residents outside and active during the summer.

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • SUN LIFE muscoreils 1 071314.jpg Beyond the bakery

    For years, Muscoreil’s Fine Desserts & Gourmet Cakes has been a go-to location for desserts and wedding and occasion cakes in Western New York.

    This summer, even as the bakery deals with the rush of wedding season, changes at its associated bistro aim to create a revitalized focus on that side of the business, as well.

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • sig - Crib Notes 2014 RGB.jpg Figuring out the birthday-party rules

    The options when you escort your child to a birthday party are endless, really. Everywhere you turn, there’s another thrill to uncover.

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • sig - critter companions RGB The tail of two books

    As promised, here are some more new summer reads that are all about our critter companions. Both books were released mid-June, and although they are quite different from one another, both would be valuable assets for your in-house library.

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo