Cheech & Chong in Victoria Sunday as stoner comedy proves a growth industry

What: Cheech & Chong O Cannabis Tour
Where: The Royal Theatre
When: Sunday, Oct. 6, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $51.25-$143.25 from the Royal Theatre box office (250-386-6121) or online from rmts.bc.ca

This bud’s for you, pot enthusiasts, as the stoner-comedy duo of Cheech & Chong makes its way to Victoria on Sunday as part of a first-ever national tour — dubbed, fittingly, the O Cannabis Tour.

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Wait — could this be true? The party-friendly pair with one Canadian member (Edmonton-born Tommy Chong, not Cheech Marin, who is from Los Angeles) has never trekked across Canada during their 50-plus years together? Surely, they must be forgetting something, a residual effect of five decades of pot use and wear and tear on their brains.

“We’ve always come in and out of Canada,” Chong said in a recent interview with the Toronto Sun. “But this is really our first cross-country tour ever.”

The reason for the delay? “Well, Cheech is Mexican and I’m Canadian, so that’s a slow combo right there,” Chong said.

The two brothers from another mother — who played brothers separated at birth who can feel each other’s pain in the 1984 movie The Corsican Brothers — have been reunited since 2008, after splitting in 1985.

The years leading up to their split were huge: Big Bambu, their second album, was quickly anointed the biggest-selling comedy record of all time in 1972, and their big-screen debut, Up In Smoke, became the highest-grossing comedy of 1978, with more than $100 million US in gross revenue at the box office.

When their brand of stoner comedy gave way to a more manic variety in the 1980s, Cheech & Chong split, less than amicably.

They were fractured for more than 20 years, with each following his own artistic muse. Marin became a mainstream film and television star, with voice roles in the billion-dollar Cars film franchise, among other projects, while Chong became a freedom fighter for the legalization of pot, between cameos on That ’70s Show. For his efforts, Chong was sentenced to nine months in prison in 2003, after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute drug paraphernalia.

Can a pair of once-radical pot provocateurs, now ages 73 (Marin) and 81 (Chong), still capture the cultural zeitgeist? No doubt whatsoever, according to Chong. “Pot’s still pot, whether you go to jail for it or not. There’s still a million things that you can laugh at.”

Marin, in an interview with Discover Los Angeles, echoed the sentiments. “We always said: ‘This is the new intoxicant for our generation.’ And now 29 states have some form of legalization and there’s no stratum of society it doesn’t cut through — I don’t care if it’s racial or economic or religious or whatever it is. Everybody, from the head of the philosophy department of some prestigious university to a guy in the Ku Klux Klan, smokes dope.

“I always thought this time was going to come, because from where we stood, performing around the country, you saw it spreading, and it got bigger in any generation you spoke to. It was inevitable.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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