Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 10. 23rd May 1973
Cheech and Chong
Cheech and Chong
A most unlikely combination of a Chinese in Tommy Chong and a Chicano (Mexican—American) in Richard Cheech is today providing American youth with a legitimate break from the hassles of everyday life with a series of situation and satirical skits.
Chong was born in Edmonton, Alberta 30 years ago. He began playing the guitar and writing for a rock group called Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers, on the Motown Label. During those "jitter bugging" days the group would come out and he would do comedy riffs prior to the group's performance. This was what got him to thinking about the possibilities of just doing comedy without the group. At this point he formed an improvisation group called the City Works, in Vancouver. They were doing such things as Committee and Second City routines in a striptease club. "The average person in the audience was a drunk or a pervert", says Chong. This posed quite a challenge for the improvisation group. They were successful in their attempts, but the audience began the expected switch from drunks to intellectual "heads". The owners were less than thrilled at the change so they let the group perform somewhere else, in other words they were canned.
Richard Cheech found his way into the act purely by chance. He was born in Watts 25 years ago and being raised in L.A. afforded him a multitude of experiences to recapture on stage, in the form of standup comedy. He received a degree in English in L.A. and then proceeded to Canada, because of the draft. His urges led home to Alberta, where he became an apprentice potter. One day a touring dine and dance combo asked him to sing with them. He had done a lot of singing with groups out of L.A. like Rompin' Richie and the Rockin' Rubins and Mother Fletcher's Blues Bros. Becoming a singer in the group was then quite appealing to him. They split to Bamf where they did some gigs and then headed for Hawaii. But because of Richard's draft status he couldn't go. Having acquired many friends up north he went back to Vancouver where a friend ran an underground newspaper. He began writing reviews for "Poppin". One day he met Tommy and both of them got together and formed the review company. (Rick had done some acting with the Instant Theatre, in L.A.)
Tommy was directing the group but later began performing the parts that the others couldn't do effectively.
When the review company split up the two put together a comedy act and went before an audience of 5,000 at the Gardens Auditorium in Vancouver. They then moved to L.A.
Here they found little acceptance for two heads doing a standup comedy act. The act began to change from straight situation comedy to a satirization of the current dope scene. The people loved it. Cheech and Chong could use their ethnic backgrounds to full advantage. Most of the audiences had no real knowledge of these ethnic groups, so the combination of ethnic and dope-orientated comedy situations proved to be their area of recognition.
I guess Cheech and Chong could not have survived even five years ago. Audience and liberalism and transient topicality have meant that dope orientated comedy how has a rightful place in our listening repetoire — even if it is only to cool it for a while.