090508 Cheech & Chong, Ottawa, ON

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I have been a lifelong follower of Cheech and Chong, one of the biggest pairings in the history of comedy, film, and album sales, and I was absolutely thrilled for the opportunity to see them perform live together at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre on September 5th, 2008.  

And though I am a huge fan of the duo I’ve always been a Chong guy at heart, vastly favouring his rock & roll spaced out comic persona over Cheech’s moronic not-straight man pratfalls, a favourism* that was magnified significantly when I discovered that Tommy Chong was Canadian.  Turns out Chong was a serious musical Renaissance man too, having been signed to Motown (of all things) back in the ’60’s where he penned a hit record, and later owning one of the hottest live music venues of its era in Vancouver where he was rumoured to have sat in with Jimi Hendrix.

As a matter of fact, Cheech and Chong first met right here in Canada, in the wilds of British Columbia where Cheech was studying pottery (of all things).  They originally got together as a musical act performing around Vancouver, but when they noticed that their pre-show jokes were getting a bigger response than the music itself they realigned their focus and started an empire.

Told you I was a fan.

For me it started when I was staying over at my friend Brad’s house as a kid.  His dad offered to take us to the movies so we scoured the evening’s offerings and with Moncton’s three theatres showing a total of just five movies we randomly settled upon Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie – the duo’s second film – with innocent ignorance.  Once the film began I’m sure Brad’s father quickly came to regret our selection but at just twelve years old I was still naive enough to not even realize it was a movie about drugs.  I thought it was about two guys doing whatever the heck they wanted to do and having a great time doing it, and I loved it.

Then I saw the next movie (which wasn’t called Next Movie) and the next, then I retroactively started getting into the albums when I somehow got my hands on a copy of Los Cochinos on 8-track (of all things) and soon enough I could recreate their skits like a Monty Python fan reciting lines from The Holy Grail.  

I suppose the fact that I figured my chance to experience a real-live Cheech and Chong show had sailed long ago made me pine for them even further, so when the tour actually happened with a stop just down the street from my home, well, I was so excited you’d swear I just found a spot next to the snack bar at the drive-in.

Sadly they didn’t do Pedro and Man at the Drive-Inn but they reproduced tons of their classic material before a packed house of rabid fans and it was as exciting as it was dated and as satisfying as it was silly, and of course I relished every single minute.

I even tried and failed to get backstage after the show.  Being a contracted employee of the NAC I certainly knew I could get backstage if I wanted to, but I also knew that to do so would be very unprofessional and possibly contract-cancelling, so I didn’t try too hard.  All I did was stand patiently next to the stage door until it inevitably opened, and when it did I asked the usher if there would be a Meet & Greet.  I was told no, but in doing so I sneaked a peak (sic) of Tommy Chong standing just a few feet away in the hallway that leads to the Green Room…the very hallway that I walk along over and over again when I’m on shift!  He even cast a quick and very unconcerned glance in my general direction when he heard someone (me!) ask about the Meet & Greet, which was quite a thrill.  

Like I say, I’m a fan. 

(Curiously, as I was walking to the venue I noticed that I was wearing two different shoes – one old sneaker and one new one.  Somehow it seemed quite fitting, moreso than the shoes themselves.)

*Oh, the very rare spellpun.  Sorry.

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