Thursday, August 21, 2008 3:00 PM
Comic Tommy Chong was online Thursday, Aug. 21 at 3 p.m. ET to take questions about his life, work, clashes with the law and his new book, "Cheech and Chong, The Unauthorized Autobiography."
A transcript follows.
Harrisburg, Pa.: How would you describe your friendship with Cheech Marin? Has he ever had you over to his house and showed you his fantastic art collection? Can you criticize each other and still be cool with each other? Do you think you will always remain some sort of friends?
Tommy Chong: Oh, we're so close. We're like siamese twins. We'll always be friends no matter what. We've gone through hell and high water, and even through our darkest moments, there will always be a love that will never die.
New York, N.Y.: What do you tell kids about pot?
Tommy Chong: I tell my kids that if you're going to use drugs, replace them. That's just a joke.
I tell my kids I don't care what they do, just don't tell me. They're going to do what they want to do anyway. If they ask me if they should smoke, I'll say no, but if they do anyway, that's ok. I don't think you should make moral judgments about that, I think people need to learn from mistakes, and just to be as responsible as they can. That's what I tell people.
Kansas City, Mo.: Hi Mr. Chong! Thanks for taking my question.
What do you think the average citizen can do to further the cause of drug decriminalization?
I give money to various causes, try to keep up on what's happening in our never ending drug war, and it doesn't seem to matter...Thoughts?
Tommy Chong: You know, life, especially in America, is ruled by corporations. Corporations have the money to put commercials on and to force Americans to buy a lot of products that aren't healthful. There's a whole industry that's made billions of dollars selling sugary bubble water to the masses. And yet the same people will keep pot criminilazied. And the only way to stop prosecution of citizens for recreational pot use is to address this issue head on every chance you get and to become active politically. Check out the people you're voting for. For instance, Joseph Biden comes off as a liberal democrat, but he's the one who authored the bill that put me in jail. He wrote the law against shipping drug paraphernalia through the mail -- which could be anything from a pipe to a clip or cigarette papers.
Washington, D.C.: Mr Chong -- thanks for taking questions!
How has the culture changed since you and Cheech started your stand up act, and does it affect how you approach comedy? Is society more or less tolerant of drug-based humor?
Tommy Chong: Society is way way way more tolerant. You have many shows on television now that depict pot use in a humorous light. The show weeds for instance, which is one of my favorite shows, shows all sides of the pot trade, but focuses mainly on the humor of pot use and the funny things that happen to people who smoke a lot of pot. Society has really become more enlightened and lightened up and I think partly because of Cheech and Chong and the trend we started 30 years ago.
Georgetown, DC: Hi Tommy! Long time fan of your work. Why do you think Mary Beth Buchanan has such a personal vendetta against you?
Tommy Chong: Well, Mary Beth Buchanan was an unknown federal prosecutor before 9/11. She gained prominence when the plan crashed in her area in Pennsylvania. Her first big case was going agaisnt me, and she had no problems prosecuting me for the flimsiest reasons you could find, based mainly on my political beliefs and my attitude. The Bush administration took advantage of this woman -- she didnt need a brainwash, more of a quick rinse -- like they used other people in the administration to go after people for their political views.
They wanted the right-wing people who supported them to see they were going after drug abuse, and I was a good target for them. Even though I'm not a dealer, I'm a health nut if anything. I smoke pot because I know it won't harm you like alcohol.
So the Bush administration took advantage of her not having the kind of awareness you would expect of someone of her stature, and it speaks volumes about them.
Arlington, VA: You've worked with a lot of great comics throughout the years. Are there any comics out there right now who you really like, or who you think are breaking new ground much like you did back in the 1970s?
Tommy Chong: There's quite a few -- there's a comic by the name of Ari Shapiro, out of San Francisco I believe, he's out of the Sam Kinison school of craziness. There are quite a few, but I'm terrible with names.
The comedy club scene has changed drastically because of the possible SAG strike -- a lot of actors are back on the stage and it's filled know with young and upandcoming comedians.
In some ways, it's easier to be a comic now, because there are more venues. But back in the day, we would find clubs where you could do comedy, like a folk club or a music club. When we started we had to work a lot of music venues, which was tough for a lot of comics, but we had enough music in our act to almost qualify us as musicians as well as comedians.
North Hollywood, CA: Looking forward to the Cheech & Chong reunion comedy show Dec 6 at the Gibson Amphitheatre! How has dope humor changed with audiences? What still works and what doesn't work?
Tommy Chong: Dope humor, with us, you have to remember when we came up in an era where we would double-bill with Alice Cooper or other music groups. We had to move very fast, we couldn't stop and chat like comics do now.
Nowadays, the dope humor isn't as necessary, you don't need it in your act at all. We were playing to the Woodstock crowd, they smoked, that's why we did the dope humor. You have to really look for an audience that will accept dope humor.
Washington, DC: Tommy,
Will you guys ever make another movie like you did in the 70's & 80's? Your movies were hilarious.
tommy: Absolutely, absolutely. I did some serious soulsearching when we broke up; Cheech was pretty much tired of the movies we were making. But fast-forward 30 years and those movies hold up. No one ever got hurt, you laugh alot, they're still funny, they're not preachy, they're just harmless fun entertainment. And we will be making those again. And they're not going to be long and boring; they're going to be short and funny.
Rockville, Md.: Will you be doing any book signings in the Washingon area?
Tommy Chong: We have a show in Sept., but I don't think I'm going to be doing any book signings. We're busy with the tour so I kind of doubt it.
Washington, D.C.: You worked for Motown as a writer and co-wrote Does Your Mama Know About Me, for Bobby Taylor and The Vancouvers, I remember. (I read my record labels.) What was it like working at Motown? What made you go into comedy?
Tommy Chong: We worked with Motown way back when it was very primitive. The Gold Star Studios is where we recorded that record, and the quality was pretty poor. You could barely hear the backing vocals. But it created a sound that wasn't slick and gave it style.
What made me a comedian was that I wasn't really a songwriter, I was more of a poet. That was a poem I wrote. I write songs, "Basketball Jones" and some of our other funny stuff, but I just took to comedy. I'm much better at comedy than I ever was being a Motown musician.
Arizona: Did you know George Carlin?
Tommy Chong: Yeah, I did know George. He had a television show and I did an episode one time. I never hung with him. We knew who he was, we knew him, he was a fan and we were fans of his. He was a funny guy.
Anonymous: Tommy, how is your daughter Rae? I've had a crush on her for 25 years. Can I have her phone number?
Tommy Chong: Rae Dawn is living in Connecticut now. She's with a guy, a sweet guy. He's an inventor for NASA. He flies his own plane and they fly around the country together. She's writing and acting and directing. My grandson, Morgan, is in the financial business out here in LA. Rae Dawn is just as funny and gorgeous as ever. My only regret is that she didn't go into comedy. She could have been a great comedian, but she chose the dramatic route.
Alexandria, VA: Curious as to how you viewed your role on "That '70s Show", and if you still keep in touch with any of the cast.
Tommy Chong: That 70s Show was one of the highlights of my life. I didn't expect to be on it as long as I was. I don't really keep in touch with anybody, but when we see each other its always hugs and smiles and kisses.
I got closer to Danny than anyone else on the show, as he was concerned about my health -- I was having some problems and he steered me toward a good doctor. But whenever I see any of them in a movie, I'm very proud.
Dave: Hey, it's me Dave. How come you never answer when I come by? I've been waiting for you for decades now. Welcome back, and all the best on the tour.
Tommy Chong: Ha, Dave's not here! We're figuring out our T-shirt design, and that's one of the things that was suggested by everybody.
Ocala, Fla.: In your opinion, what's behind the revival in stoner humor at this particular time? Pharmaceuticals in the water? The political scene? Boomer nostalgia? Better weed?
Tommy Chong: It's sort of a forerunner of the Democrats coming into power. It's sort of ahead of the rest of the people. Maybe I'm wrong. I think we're just starting to celebrate the end of the ignorant era and coming into the age of the enlightened era. When everybody lights up.
San Francisco CA: I love you guys! Together and separately!!
What do you see yourself doing in say another 10 years?
Tommy Chong: Walking slower, for sure. Traveling -- I definitely can see me going to China. I want to go to Scotland and Ireland. I want to go to all my roots -- I'm part Scottish, Irish and Chinese. So a lot of traveling.
Tommy Chong: I want to thank you all for letting me come into your homes. I'm really getting into this -- I have a live video chat of my own once a month, and we do the same thing. It's a lot of fun. So thanks, and keep going.
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