Kirkus Reviews QR Code


...but Don't Call Me Chong

by Cheech Marin with John Hassan

Pub Date: March 14th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-4555-9234-0
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

The straight dope from Cheech.

Marin, half of the storied stoner comedy team Cheech and Chong, recounts his life and career with this slight, genial memoir. The son of a hard-nosed cop, Richard “Cheech” Marin (b. 1946) spent his early life in East Los Angeles’ violent ghetto on the straight and narrow, earning good grades and serving as an altar boy. The Vietnam War changed everything, as Marin turned in his draft card and decamped for Canada, where he met local musician and scenester Tommy Chong and joined his improvisational comedy troupe. “I had turned in my draft card,” he writes, “philosophically denying the government’s authority over me and at the same time choosing to go to Canada to pursue my artistic calling as a potter. It was a philosophical two-fer.” Marin and Chong hit it off, and their loose, rambling, pot-inflected comedy bits quickly made them a sensation, leading to lucrative tours, albums, and movies before the buzz wore off and the pair split in the mid-1980s. Marin is diplomatic about his clashes with Chong, who comes off here as aggressive and insecure about credit, leavening all complaints with affirmations of Chong’s singular, charismatic talent. Mellow in his recollections to a fault, the author acknowledges his fondness for marijuana, but he does not offer salacious, drug-fueled anecdotes or other tales of wild, countercultural bad behavior. Instead, he focuses on the duo’s creative process, warm family memories, post–Cheech and Chong collaborations with Robert Rodriguez and Pixar, and the creation of his personal film Born in East LA (1987). Droll and affable rather than outrageous and subversive, Marin is pleasant company, but general readers may wish for less data on the author’s Chicano art collection and more hysterical, hairy tales of ’70s-era excess.

A mildly diverting, modestly charming memoir from a surprisingly multifaceted showbiz survivor.