It’s rare to be speaking with someone that, over the course of 50 years now, can remain such an iconic part in a single area of pop culture. As we all know, a lot of people might reach their heights and then struggle to remain at the place of where they once were. But as time goes on, Cheech Marin still remains a major name and player in the world of comedy, pop culture, and beyond. Everybody knows ego Cheech Marin is, both as part of Cheech & Chong and also an actor and art collector.
Cheech Marin can currently be seen in the newly released family comedy The War With Grandpa. The film has a pretty big cast that includes Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, Uma Thurman, Rob Riggle, Jane Seymour, and more. Marin plays one of De Niro’s character’s best friends, and even winds up getting to play dodgeball on a trampoline alongside De Niro, Walken, and Seymour at one point, rivaling their much younger teenage co-stars. Not too shabby for a man in his mid-70’s!
And even beyond The War With Grandpa, Marin is still going strong. He and his weed-smoking cohort Tommy Chong are still out on the road touring (just not at the moment, obviously). Additionally, it was reported earlier this year that Chong was writing a new horror movie script to feature the duo. Because every great comedy duo needs their Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein moment. And on top of that, Marin is also reportedly returning to his role as Inspector Joe Dominguez opposite Don Johnson in a revival of Nash Bridges.
We recently spoke to Marin over Zoom as part of a press junket to talk about The War With Grandpa, how happy he is to still be alive after the dodgeball scene, the best prank he ever pulled, the legacy of Cheech and Chong, the aforementioned Nash Bridges revival, and just how often he has people coming out asking him to smoke with them.
Let’s start with The War With Grandpa. In a film that has a cast that includes Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, Uma Thurman, Jane Seymour, and so many others, is it a pretty no-brainer “yes” to be working with a cast like this?
Yeah. And it was really a yes when you go to the last page and you’re working with Robert De Niro and you haven’t gotten whacked yet. So I thought “Hey, I make it all the way to the end. That’s great!” No, it was the cast, absolutely. To work with these people was just a thrill.
I can imagine. And I also imagine it had been a while since you last got to play dodgeball on a trampoline like you did in the film.
I was just so thankful that I didn’t die in that building. (Laughs). I went into that room and I looked at the dodgeballs and the trampolines and I thought “Somebody’s getting killed in this room today”.
Did anyone get killed?
No. Not even injured. We didn’t have any major injuries, which was pretty amazing because the stunt guys were bouncing up and down the walls on wires and doing backflips. One false step and that would be it.
Did you do your own stunts?
Yeah, well I played professional dodgeball on the European circuit. And I played in Japan and Israel for three years. (Laughs). The acting was just trying to convince people that I didn’t know how to play dodgeball. So that was the acting part.
Is something like that, where it’s supposed to look like you’re all having fun, actually fun to shoot?
Wellllll maybe not some of those guys. I think we were all scared. (Laughs).
And as so much of the film revolves around pulling pranks, I’ve gotta ask what is the best prank that you’ve ever pulled?
Oh God. Convincing my dad that I dropped the transmission in the car by it just happened. (Laughs).
Did it work?
For a lot of years. I let him know many years later. I was just revving to see if I could burn rubber. And then the trans fell!
What about the best prank that ever got pulled on you?
Boy, people know better than to do that to me. I don’t remember being involved in a prank that anybody pulled… There was one producer who said he was going to pay me and he didn’t. So that was kind of a prank. It wasn’t received well.
I can imagine not! And I’ve gotta ask, is it weird to have to go out and do press and promote something under these circumstances? Because is this the first thing you’ve gone out to promote during the pandemic?
Yeah. I haven’t even been out of the house since March. And it’s nice that this movie is even coming out. I thought this movie was lost to tell you the truth. Because we made it a couple of years ago. And through one situation or another, the movie got delayed. And then I finally heard word that they were going to release it. Because it was like “My one chance to work with De Niro and it’s going to get lost??” But here it is.
And actually, it’s the exact right time for this movie to come out, when everybody has to be home with their families. I was more than relieved [that it was coming out]. I was amazed. I guess it’s supposed to be. If it’s not coming out, then I guess that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Or it did come out at the perfect time and that’s the way it was supposed to be. So we’re covered either way.
So what’ve you’re been watching during the past few months?
I’ve been watching everything ever recorded. Everything ever filmed. If it’s on TV. I go from Narcos Mexico to Shirley Temple movies. (Laughs). I swear to God, my wife and I watched a bunch of Shirley Temple movies. And she was like the Michael Jackson of her day. She was a worldwide phenomenon. She was the number one box office star for 7 years in a row.
And she was only 7 years old herself.
She was 5! She was 5. And it was like a machine. It’s unbelievable that that little girl had that much talent at that age.
And then, even afterwards, she still lived a surprisingly full life up until she died.
Yeah. She was an ambassador to different countries.
And to jump around a bit, being a comedy publication, I do have to ask about the Cheech & Chong days. So as you guys are starting out, you’re often cited as being responsible for ushering in this new wave of counter culture comedy and breaking the doors down for the comedy boom to come through. As that’s going on, how aware are you guys of what is going on in that moment?
Oh, we were very aware of it. Because we came out of improv comedy, albeit a different kind. Because we started in a strip bar in Vancouver. And so we were doing naked improv. And what I realized many years later was what we were actually doing was hippie burlesque. It was classic burlesque. But we were doing it with modern strippers and improvisational theater instead of stand-up. So we kind of worked at it and worked at it and worked at it. And then when we finally got to the point where we made movies, we kind of knew what we were doing except for the movie making part. We had never made a movie, we had never been in front of a camera, but the only thing we thought about was “We’ll just be funny in front of the camera and they’ll figure out the rest.”
It’s so funny how trusting they were of you guys at that point, with no camera experience, that they let you do that.
Yeah. Well the price was right! (Laughs).
And you don’t really see that blind faith these days, especially on that sort of level.
Not at all. You have to have every comma in place. But it was an improv era. People were improvising a lot. And when you get good, it was improv jazz. When you get good at it, and you know your instrument well, then you can improvise. So we would master that. So making movies was just about learning the technique to capture that. It wasn’t about doing it. It was about how to capture that.
Absolutely. And I’ve asked a similar question to other people, but I think you’re the person this question was basically created for. Is there a single day that goes by where you can walk down the street and not have someone ask you to smoke a joint with them?
Oh everyday. It’s on everybody’s bucket list. And you know, the thing that you realize right now is that marijuana cuts through every segment of society. Every segment. I don’t care if you’re a bishop or a homeless bum or on Wall Street or a student. It’s in every single segment of society. So there’s something that connects them. So we were kind of the gurus of that. Too bad we didn’t get a royalty. Oh well.
You never know. Maybe the check is still on it’s way.
I’ll stand by the mailbox!
Last thing I wanna ask is last year it was revealed that there’s gonna be a revival of Nash Bridges. Do you have any updates on where that’s at?
Uh I think they’re gonna do it. I’m sitting here waiting, but I think they’re gonna do it. I would love to do it. That was a really fun show to work on. Working with Don and we had a really good chemistry. It was a good part of my life. So I wouldn’t mind reviving that, sure.
The War with Grandpa is out in select theaters and on VOD now.