It’s an interesting time for Tommy Chong to return to Canada. First of all, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is taking heat for his omnibus crime bill, and Occupy (insert city here) is splitting citizens on whether or not the protests should continue.
Chong thinks Harper is on the wrong track. He also thinks the Occupy protestors will fade when the weather gets too many degrees below zero. And he’s not shy about saying so during his standup set, or during phone interviews.
“You’ve got Harper trying to do a George Bush on Canada,” Chong says from his L.A. office where he’s working on a Cheech and Chong animation. “So I’ve got that pathetic little wimp to smack around, which I’ll do. But I try not to get too political.”
But he will.
As for the Occupy movement in Canada differing from that in the U.S. (as in, protestors aren’t getting their heads bashed in), Chong believes Canadians are just really nice. And traditional. And ranchers?
“The thing about Canada, a lot of people are used to dealing with livestock,” he says. “The way you herd the cows around is you’re very gentle with them. With horses, you let them do what they want and then you move their feed and eventually they follow.”
Chong, the easygoing musician and outspoken marijuana rights activist, is no stranger to controversy. He served nine months in jail in 2003 over his bong business.
“The jail stint was a lot harder on my wife and family than it was on me,” Chong says. “For me it was like a spiritual retreat, you know. I was in there with white-collar criminals and it was a learning experience.”
For his wife Shelby, however, it was a shameful time. She was ostracized by people the couple thought were friends.
“But wounds are healed, and now she likes to tell jokes about it,” he says.
Shelby will open for Chong during his two-day comedy show at The Laugh Shop.
“She talks about the jail stint and how we met and what it’s like being married to me,” Chong says. “And I focus on the state of marijuana affairs because that’s my expertise.”
Chong and his wife have been performing comedy together for the past few years. Chong enjoys the time he spends with her, even if there are others joining in on the fun.
“Standup comedy is like making love — the more you do it the better you get at it,” he says. “And when you do standup, it’s like a dance and the audience is your partner.”
Chong was in Calgary in February for a farewell tour with Cheech, but he says they’re pulling a Cher and aren’t done touring together after all.
“We’re looking forward to our third tour. We’re trying to break Cher’s record — I think she did 10.”
Naturally, for a lover of herb, Chong notices the changes in Calgary, but through a smoky filter. When he grew up here, weed was scarce.
“Oh God, it was so hard to find,” he says. “But you could smoke it anywhere back then. Now it’s easier to find but you can’t smoke it anywhere.”
He has a tip for that problem though.
“There are filters you can buy now and put them on and you won’t be able to smell it. Then you can smoke anywhere.”
Chong will be performing four shows over two nights and hopes audiences come out because, well, he’s 73 years old.
“Who knows when I’ll be back to the city,” he says. “Don’t take me for granted.”