Tommy Chong Turns 85

Liz Filmer
25 May 2023

Legendary comedian and pot culture icon Tommy Chong turned 85 on May 25th. Chong is one half of the infamous duo Cheech and Chong.

In case you have been living under a rock, Cheech and Chong found commercial and cultural success in the 1970s and 1980s thanks to their stand-up routines, studio recordings, and feature films based on the hippie, free love era, and most notably, cannabis. To honour legend Mr Chong here are five did-you-know facts about 50% of everyone's favourite stoner duo.

He Met Cheech Selling Carpets
While Chong was running an improv club, a carpet salesman called Cheech Marin visited a neighbouring building. Chong remembers Cheech as "fast and funny and tired of laying carpets,". Chong, therefore, offered him a job with his improv troupe, and their friendship and career were born.

He Played With The Jackson 5 
Before his comedy career, Chong played the guitar in Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers. He eventually signed with Berry Gordy Jr. of Motown Records; at one gig in Chicago, the openers were a pre-fame Jackson 5. On seeing young Michael Jackson perform for the first time Chong and his band were astonished at this little kid that could sing and dance better than anybody else in the room

A Movie Changed His Life
After watching the Peter Sellers comedy "I Love You, Alice B. Toklas", where Sellers plays a stuffy lawyer who becomes a hippie after trying weed brownies, Chong and his wife Shelby lived in Detroit at the time. Still, they were inspired to relocate to Venice Beach and take up the hippie lifestyle, changing the trajectory of Chong's life forever. Years later, Cheech and Chong befriended Sellers, who was also a big fan of their work.  

The U.S. Government Busted Chong's Bong Business.
 Chong was famously arrested in 2003 for selling bongs online. It was part of a federal investigation called "Operation Pipe Dreams," targeting "55 bong makers," including Chong, who was merely a company spokesperson who took the rap to protect his son. 

He Shared a Cell with the 'Wolf of Wall Street"
While serving his nine-month sentence, Chong's cellmate was disgraced financier Jordan Belfort. Inspired by Chong's writing, Belfort wrote his book, The Wolf of Wall Street. The book was then adapted into a successful movie directed by Industry genius Martin Scorsese.


Liz Filmer