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There’s Cheech y Chong

Cheech and Chong

Warner Bros./Ode/Rhino

All you youngsters out there are probably wondering why it is that that dumpy Nash Bridges sidekick got to hang out with Yasmine Bleeth for several seasons before she got all coked up and became a South Park laughingstock, and you didn’t. Well, it’s because that dopey guy used to be quite famous. Way back when, he was half of a stoner vaudeville act called Cheech and Chong. They would say things like “Take my bong, please” or “I just flew in from Acapulco and, boy, are my lungs tired,” and everyone would guffaw, it being the ’70s and the audience being very, very stoned and happy just to be surrounded by people who weren’t going to harsh on their buzz and, like, bust them or send them scrambling for the Ozium or something. OK, that’s mostly a fib; there might’ve been gags with twirling bow ties and a giant squirting doobie, but who can say? What is certain is that the best recordings of Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong, as collected on a new Rhino two-discer, are never funny. They might be clever, like Cheech’s rewrite of “Born in the U.S.A.,” which finds an Angeleno deported from his home turf to TJ, where he can’t understand the language, and they might be well-produced, filled with visually suggestive sound effects and multilayered cacophony, and they might contain the occasional felicitous touch, such as naming Chong’s addled alter ego “Man,” but you probably won’t be busting a gut over them. And the duo’s signature routine, “Dave,” pretty much is a vaudeville holdover: Think of it as “Who’s on First?” with nobody on base. Granted, I’m probably not the most qualified person you could find to levy the obvious charges—that you had to have been there and you had to have been baked—but you had to have been there and you had to have been baked. What? Did I just say that, man? —Glenn Dixon