Tommy Chong discovered one important thing after serving nine months in the poky for selling marijuana paraphernalia over the Internet.
"I learned never to put my face on a bong," he says.
Following his July 2004 release from jail on charges in which he wore "the badge of honor as the fall guy," the outspoken Chong and his wife, Shelby, are back on the comedy circuit. This weekend's appearance at the Tempe Improv will be Chong's first. "We will talk about the bong bust, perform a stoner routine, and discuss current affairs," Chong tells New Times. "We're not nice to [President] Bush, but who is these days?"
In addition to touring, Chong has a recurring role on That '70s Show, and Simon & Schuster has just picked up the rights to his prison diary, The I Chong.A film documenting his arrest and imprisonment, AKAChong, is scheduled for release in 2006. "We bash [California Governor] Arnold Schwarzenegger, so we hope that the film comes out during his reelection campaign," says Chong.
Chong is also currently writing a play based on the Cheech and Chong comedy routines, but the possibility of a reunion movie with Cheech Marin -- his sidekick in a number of stoner flicks, including the blunt-eyed 1978 comedy Up in Smoke -- has been quelled for the moment because of philosophical differences between the two. Referring to Marin, Chong says, "Working for the money is not a good enough reason. Cheech doesn't want to be a Chicano, so we've asked him to take Chicano lessons."
Although Chong claims he hasn't carried the pot torch since quitting more than two years ago, he says he does have another substance to offer during his standup act.
"If you want to improve your sex life, come to the show, because we're better than Viagra."