On this day in comedy on July 13, 1946 Comedian, Actor, Writer, Voice-Over Artist, Richard Anthony “Cheech” Marin was born in Los Angeles, California.
Marin is a pioneer of stoner comedy along with his partner, Tommy Chong. Together they made up the team of Cheech and Chong. The name Cheech came from chicharrons. Why? Because when Mexicans get high they satisfy the munchies with – chicharrons. (We don’t make up the stereotypes we only report them). Marin’s dad was a cop, but when the possibility that the Vietnam War could enter into the world of young Cheech, he hightailed it up to Canada to avoid the draft; where he met Chong, who was a resident. Chong was a musician who’d had a band with a couple of hits records and had opened a popular night club in Vancouver. The problem was the more business got into Chong’s musical career the less it was a career. When he met Marin in 1968 the timing was ripe.
Cheech and Chong were a cultural phenomenon; catching lightning in a bottle by being on the crest and sometimes leading the love-of-cannabis movement. They came along between the Summer of Love and Woodstock and were to weed what Snoop Dogg is to weed, but before him. The standup comedy material they performed on stage talked about smoking weed. The albums the released talked about smoking weed. The movies they made (except for one) showed them smoking weed. It was branding at its best.
Even a good high comes to an end and thus Cheech and Chong broke up in 1985. They’d made 7 films (Chong directed four of them) and recorded 8 albums; the most popular being 1978’s Up in Smoke. There had been creative differences and Marin was itching to jumpstart a solo acting career so it was time; even if it wasn’t it became time.
Cheech Marin’s breakout film was Born in East L. A. It was a hit and he went on to appear in Fatal Beauty, The Shrimp on the Barbie, Ghostbusters II, Tin Cup, A Million to Juan, Desperado, The Great White hype, Christmas with The Kranks, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Far Out Man, From Dusk Till Dawn, Spy Kids and The Book of Life just to name several. On the television front Marin co-starred on the Golden Palace, Nash Bridges with Don Johnson, Judging Amy and Rob Schneider’s Rob. He had a recurring role on Lost, hosted Latino Laugh Festival and did a slew of guest-starring on sitcoms.
Marin became a noted voice-over artist. He’s been featured in The Lion King, Oliver & Company, Car, Car2, It’s Tough to Be a Bug and Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Blazing Dragons, South Park, Dora the Explorer, Hoodwinked, Ferngully: The Last Rainforest, Pinocchio, The Simpsons and Cheech & Chong’s Animated Movie.
Cheech Marin is a prime example of reinvention. The former counter-culture comedian has been on mainstream game shows competing against mainstream celebrities. The former munchies man was on a reality show on the Food Network of all places; cooking, not eating. His career did so much of a 180 that Marin, once a tutu wearing, mind-altered rocker released two children’s albums and a book based on his wholesome creation, Cheech, The School Bus Driver.
By Darryl “D’Militant” Littleton
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