Saturday, May 30, 2009

Feast of Saint Tommy

My Fellow Comedists,

This week saw the feast day of Saint Tommy. Tommy Chong turned 71. Actually, I'm not sure if it was a feast day or if I just really has serious munchies, man.

Born to a Chinese father and a Scotch-Irish mother in Canada, he received his first guitar at age eleven and became a professional musician. His band was personally asked by the mayor of Calgary to leave town and they went to Vancouver where Chong bought an after-hours venue called "The Elegant Parlor." There he started playing with Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers who would get signed by Motown.

While performing, he caught the comedy bug doing short bits between songs and he left music to concentrate on comedy. He used his brother's club, Shanghai Junk, as the launching pad.

"It was a topless joint and I didn't have the heart to fire the strippers, so when I turned the show into a comedy troupe known as 'City Works,' I put the girls in the skits. We had the only topless improvisational theatre in Canada."
Other comics tried out their chops at Shanghai Junk, among them Richard Marin, who worked under his nickname "Cheech." Chong invited him to perform with City Works and the two found a chemistry that was comic gold.

Working the circuit, they were signed by Ode Records (a part of Warner Brothers) for whom they recorded seven classic albums. The success of their albums led to movies casting them solely as the bumbling potheads they became famous for playing.

Here's a classic bit from their stage days, Ralph and Herbie.

Happy birthday, Tommy Chong. Thanks for all the laughs.

What are your favorite Cheech and Chong moments?

Live, love, and laugh,

Irreverend Steve