The air over Chastain Park Amphitheatre this Friday (August 23) may have a distinctive smell. Why? Cheech & Chong will hit the stage.
Tommy Chong and Cheech Marin reunited in 2008 after an acrimonious breakup and have continued to cross the country touring since then to entertain old and new fans alike.
I recently talked to Chong, who overcome a prostate cancer diagnosis and is as cheeky as ever. He is also thrilled that the country is becoming more tolerant of marijuana use. He was especially tickled that Dr. Sanjay Gupta, in a recent CNN documentary "Weed," said he found studies that convinced him it has medical merit and isn't as addictive as the government has proclaimed.
Q: I spoke with you and Cheech in 2008 before your last trip to Atlanta. I guess it went well because you're back!
Tommy: It's going really well. We're still doing it. We've had little breaks. I kept looking forward to the end of the tour. It's not ending. We keep cultivating a new crop of fans wherever we go.
Q: How is it different for folks who saw the last tour?
Tommy: It's a lot different, same mentality. We're with bands now: Tower of Power and War. We do a lot more music.
Q: So you'll be singing most of the time?
Tommy: What I call it is spoken word with music... It's like a musical. It's a lot of fun. It's like jazz. In between the title and the end, there could be a lot of things going on.
Q: You two are getting along now?
Tommy: Cheech finally realized I am the guy. He's only along for the ride. Actually, we're getting along great. The thing is we're older. Bad memories, bad eyes, bad appetite. Everything works out. We don't have the energy to fight. Why bother? We're funneling all that energy the right way: staying upright!
Q: How old are you?
Tommy: I'm 75, closing in on 76. And I feel great, man. I am in the best shape I have to say in 40 years.
Q: But you had prostate cancer, right?
Tommy: Luckily, I got cancer. I had to change my diet.
Q: You're okay now from what I hear.
Tommy: I treated it with cannibus. And that seemed to work. And my diet now includes less sugar, no red meat, soda or booze. I drink a lot of fresh water. That really helps. According to my doctor in Boston, he read my last numbers, it was like I never had it to begin with.
Q: What do you miss most?
Tommy: Fresh baked bread. Pizza. That's comfort food. I do have bread every now and then. I succumb to a slice here or there.
Q: How much pot do you smoke now?
Tommy: I try not to smoke it when I'm on the road. But I try to get my daily dose. I'll toke up before I get on the plane. I won't carry it with me. I wait until I get home. I'm a pot snob. It's like wine. You can judge its pedigree by the smell and look. You can tell.
Q: So what's your favorite?
Tommy: Sativa. It's energetic. It's an upper. Indigo puts you to sleep. It shuts you up. Sativa will have you running your mouth.
Q: What did you think of Sanjay Gupta's documentary "Weed"?
Tommy: I love it. I love that, man. I love the fact it's a little Indian guy that's turning America on.
Q: What impact do you think he will have on people's perceptions of weed?
Tommy: He's a tipping point for America. He just took out all of the fears. There's not enough studies. Everybody went by rumors. The people who oppose it say there are these patients with terrible problems with marijuana but don't put them on TV. You can produce a crystal meth or heroin abuser. Never seen a marijuana abuser.
Q: How about his concern about studies that show teens' development might be stunted by marijuana?
Tommy: It does not turn idiots into geniuses. I just think it enhances what's already there. If your kid is a burnout or a boozer, at least pot will keep him mellow as opposed to booze, which could make him violent. You can die from too much booze, too many pills or too much heroin. Nobody dies from an overdose of pot. I tried!
Q: Why do you think the U.S. government still considers marijuana a narcotic in the books?
Tommy: It shows the hypocrisy of the American government. There are so many hypocritical laws. Look at what they do with voting laws, women's reproductcive rights. There are still racist idiots out there. Fortunately, they're a dying breed.
Q: Are you happy that states are passing laws making medical marijuana and in some cases, recreational marijuana legal?
Tommy: Of course, but the trouble is I'm gullible like a lot of other stoners. Lenny Bruce in the late 1950s said pot would be legal in the 1960s. I saw so many law students smoking it. In the 1960s, pot fueled protests against the Vietnam War. That was when acid was legal. Then the right wing made everything illegal. And they created life sentences for possession and dealing. Nobody was let out early.
Q: How long were you in prison [for distributing marijuana-related paraphernalia]?
Tommy: I did nine months. I did every bit of time.
Cheech & Chong with Tower of Power and War
8 p.m. Saturday, August 23
Ticket Price(s): $270.00 Terrace Table (seats 6), $59.00 Box Seats, $39.00 Terrace Seats, $25.00 Rear Terrace Seats
Chastain Park Amphitheatre