So Chong

Tommy and Shelby Chong stop at Denver Improv.

"I'll be seventy years old on May 24," says Tommy Chong. "I can still get it up. That's all I want you to know."

Thanks for sharing, Tommy.

The soon-to-be septuagenarian -- best known for his work with Cheech Marin in such comedy classics as Cheech & Chong and Up in Smoke -- spent nine months in prison (from October 8, 2003 to July 7, 2004) for "conspiracy," due to his part in promoting and financing Chong Glass/Nice Dreams, an outfit (which Chong's son, Paris, ran) that sold glass pipes. The joke's on the government, though: Chong's still using the lockup in his act.

"We talk a lot about when I got busted for a bong. It's getting less and less now. When I first got out, that was our act, but it's sort of sliding into the golden oldie section. But it's definitely still part of the act, because it's so ridiculous.

"I'm working on a steroid bit," Chong says, "because that's another infringement on our freedoms, where the government's basically telling you what medicine you can use and what medicine you can't use. And as long as you use their so-called legal medicine, then you're okay, and that includes alcohol and cigarettes. That stuff'll kill you. But take a drug that promotes healing -- you'd better put him in jail."

Chong's wife, Shelby Chong, is on tour with him and is an integral part of the act. "I've been doing standup for over fifteen years," Chong says. "It's gotten to the point where I don't even know what I'm going to do. It's very exciting. I've got some stock stuff that finds its way in all the time, but my wife is my partner. We have an opener, then she comes on and does twenty to 25 minutes, and then she brings me out. I do about half an hour, I bring her back out, and we do a comedy routine together.

"We've been doing it for a while," Chong continues, "but again, when you're dealing with comedy, it has to change. You can't do Nixon jokes anymore. Or Bill Clinton jokes. It just has a life of its own. Comedy is our master. Us comedians, we think we can master comedy, but really comedy controls us. We're controlled by the funny events that happen in the world."

So, what's funny lately? "Britney Spears, for one thing," Chong says. "My take on it is the way the media treats it. You know, with all the important things going on in the world, we're following around a deranged teenager."

Despite Chong's recent comedy work -- his recurring character on That '70s Show, Leonard Chingkwake, for example -- his early career with Cheech Marin is "always there," he says. "Shelby brings it up when she opens. She talks about us getting back together, and how we should call the movie Grumpy Old Stoners. And it sneaks into my act once in a while, but again, that's on the back burner."

What's on the front burner for Chong? "I'm finishing up a book called The Unauthorized Autobiography of Cheech and Chong, by Tommy Chong. That'll be out in August. I'm working on a couple of television projects. Really, waiting for the writer's strike to end. That's about it. I've been on a tour for thirty years. I go home for a rest once in a while."

And since Chong Glass/Nice Dreams was shut down by the government, the family has different plans. "We're out of the bong business," Chong says, and "we're working on a couple of projects. I can't talk about them yet, because I don't want to kill the baby before it has a chance to live." Here's what he will say: "Paul Newman is my hero, because he got that food section going really well. I want to do something like that on the hippie side. Organic."

Tommy and Shelby will be at Denver Improv, 8246 East 49th Avenue in Stapleton's Northfield, today and Saturday at 7:30 and 10 p.m. and on Sunday at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25. Call 303-307-1777 or visit www.symfonee.com/improv/denver/home/index.aspx for information.
Feb. 7-Jan. 27, 2008

 
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