Comedy still a joint venture for solo act Tommy Chong


Comedy concert

Who: Tommy Chong

When: 7:30 and 10:15 tonight

Where: Annapolis Dinner Theater and Comedy Club, U.S. 50 East at Exit 29A, three miles before Chesapeake Bay Bridge

Cost: $15 show only; $29.95 with dinner included (first show only)

Call: (410) 626-7527

Unrepentant and proud of it. How else to describe Tommy Chong?

That's Chong as in Cheech and Chong, the rock/comedy team whose stoned-silly humor made them concert, album and movie stars from the late 1970s well into the 1980s.

In their signature debut film, 1979's "Up In Smoke," the two shared a marijuana joint the size of a hoagie sandwich while driving on the Los Angeles freeway. "No problem, man. That is some great *ka,5 s *txt, man," went the dialogue.

But then along came Nancy Reagan, the "Just Say No" movement and a slow, popular shift away from the more pharmaceutical aspects of the rock culture -- except, apparently, for Tommy Chong.

"I'm Chong, the Doper," the 53-year-old comic cracks casually.

Indeed, in the course of 15 minutes he:

* Attributes the breakup of Cheech and Chong in the late 1980s to partner Cheech Marin's desire to "go straight," without the drug humor. (Mr. Marin has, in fact, managed to somewhat shed his image, having co-starred this past television season in the sitcom "The Golden Palace.")

* Acknowledges he often "takes a little tiny toke" of marijuana before performing in his current comedy club act, calling the substance "part of my lifestyle."

* Asserts Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke "should be our next president" for his stand on decriminalizing certain drugs.

* Contends that after a period of disfavor, pot "is bigger than ever." He says he is "not an avid pot-smoker," but has been using it since he was 18.

"Cheech, now he's totally non-drug now. But I realized that that's what made us different than everybody else. Actually, it was our niche," says Mr. Chong.

And he says visitors to tonight's two comedy performances at the Annapolis Dinner Theater and Comedy Club will hear some of the familiar under-the-influence material.

But his act also includes fresh topical and political routines, for he says, "I was sort of influenced by Dennis Miller and those kind of guys," referring to the former "Saturday Night Live" star whose stage act sharply satirizes modern matters.

"You can't be a comedian without being up to date. You have to be topical," Mr. Chong says.

And he finds his former fans make live comedy easy and rewarding.

"With my crowd it's really neat. They know me from the records and the movies . . . and they're usually pleasantly surprised that I can carry it all off without being too stupid."

Does he ever get into legal trouble with his advocacy and use of an illegal substance?

"No, man, there's a special case for Cheech and Chong," he says, and recounts a recent confrontation with Canadian border officers at the Winnipeg airport.

A young inspector recognized him, and searched his luggage thoroughly.

"Of course, he found a joint in my suitcase, and called this RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] over. But the guy comes up and goes, 'Hey, I love your records,' " he recalls.

K? The officer just waved him through the inspection, he said.

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