I Saw A Film!

Were Cheech and Chong funny? My whole life I’ve tried hard to appreciate these guys. As a youngster in the 70s the kids were doing their bits from “Sister Mary Elephant” to the “Dave’s not here, man” stuff the way I’d later be doing Monty Python (are there folks who love both?). But it never really touched me. I’ve honestly felt bad about it from time to time, but I seriously never felt like these guys were trying very hard. I understand that comedy is not easy, but I could look at stoners being stoners every day at high school, so that just wasn’t going to be enough!

As kids we kinda loved Up In Smoke and I want to say we saw it at the town cinema and laughed our asses off, but part of the deal there is that you were ratcheted up to do so. Being out on the town at fifteen and enjoying a movie with your crew was about the best thing that was going to happen to you so you freaking loved whatever you saw. I may need to revisit it as I truly do want to appreciate these guys. I am going to really try to fathom this “blue collar”, pot induced, high school favorite, smoker’s humor.

In this film, they somehow get to Amsterdam where they’re inexplicably mistaken for Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton and given some red-carpet treatment. What follows is a kind of loosely strung together pile of yucks that they shoe-horn in in the form of skits while they lounge in saunas and sit at tables. Nothing is sacred and there are gay jokes, black-faced stunts, drag jokes, and plenty of nonsense that just feels like two burn-outs trying to be as outrageous as possible.

Are there any laughs? Yes. I chuckled at a few things. But it occurred to me that I was having to sort of set in my head that this was a kind of “music” I wasn’t used to. Part of the appreciation of Cheech and Chong is in your relationship to these characters. Once you accept them into your life, you’re experiencing their unlikely experiences with them. Much like other oddball character-driven narratives like The Blues Brothers, or even Loony Tunes cartoons, your understanding of who the characters are is a big part of how you’re going to appreciate what follows.

We are particularly reliant on our close friends for our ability to express ourselves. Most of us have lives that don’t offer a lot of opportunities for us to be free and open about our concerns, loves, and failings. When we have those friends we can fearlessly open up to without judgement or correction we feel most at ease. This ease is a necessary aspect of our social biology. This is also why when people go down a path of objectionable belief openly expressed, they find themselves more and more stressed out without an outlet to express to. It is seldom that these people, circling a sink of depression, will ever reconsider their faulty thinking, and instead will aim their frustrated anger outward. Trust is broken when our friends fall into these traps and then stubbornly refuse to be lifted out. When trust is broken friendships are damaged.

Cheech and Chong are sweet dopey friends, if you’ve allowed them to be. And I suppose their promise is that while the jokes may fall flat, or their stoned countenances may fail to make you laugh, it’ll never be really bad. The blue-collar jokes are good-natured, and not hateful. Their devotion to comedy is earnest if low-brow. And if by chance you’re a stoner, they definitely have a few gags that fit a universal stoner/slacker life. Slackers aren’t necessarily stoners but there are some shared experiences.

I always felt like Tommy Chong’s best bits were on That 70’s Show (which I only saw enough of to catch Chong), and Cheech, he’s been busy as a serious actor!

this is free on Prime and while at times tedious I’m sure the fans will be pleased.

One thought on “Cheech and Chong Still Smoking (1983)

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