Roswell is set to go Up in Smoke this Frid ay when Tommy Chong hits town for a comedy act at the Civic Center. Chong, best known for his work in the Grammy Award-winning comedy duo Cheech & Chong, will follow opening acts from his wife Shelby and comedians Daniel Van Nice and Ponchi Herrera. Chong’s Up in Smoke tour stop will mark the second time the 74-year-old comedian and marijuana advocate has performed in Roswell since 2005.
Chong said that while his show features plenty of humor, the material “goes a little deeper than just laughs.”
“I try to keep everything fresh and new and different, but yet still talk about what people know me for, you know?” Chong said. “… It’s a history of hippies in America, I guess. We try to entertain by showing a very enlightened view of the world.”
Chong, who has been a marijuana advocate since the early 1960s, served nine months in a California prison in 2003 and 2004 for conspiring to sell drug paraphernalia. He said the experience changed him for the better, leading to a better understanding of the war on drugs in America.
“Well, prison changes everybody,” he said. “It opened my eyes. … I’m more tolerant, and I’m aware of what’s going on in the world now. Before I was never aware, I just lived my life, sort of in a bubble.”
“So we look at the marijuana world. And what’s happened (is), it’s gone mainstream,” he said. “It’s legal in Washington state and Colorado, and it’s in 19 states where they have medical marijuana. So my show, anyway, centers quite a bit around that world, in a humorous way.”
“We try to get people to lighten up,” he said. “I mean, that’s really been my mission in life and in performing. That’s one of the reasons I’m still on the stage. We don’t only make people laugh but we educate. And I think that’s very important for this culture to be educated, because if you’re educated, then you’re not fearful. There’s nothing to be afraid of if you know what’s going on, and that’s basically what I try to do.”
Chong said when it comes to hot button issues like marijuana legalization, laughter helps put things in perspective.
“The truth is that we’re really dealing with a substance that helps people,” he said. “It doesn’t hurt people; it literally helps people: it helps them sleep, it helps them relax, it helps them relieve stress, it helps people with Alzheimer’s and it helps people with M.S. … I’ve never heard of a marijuana addict going berserk, except maybe in a candy store — eating.”
Chong said even though he always hopes to educate an audience, his Up in Smoke act should not be confused with a political event. “That’s not the humorist’s job, really. Our job is to show you things, and show you the humor in situations.” He said his humor manages to “skate between the poles,” and pointed out that his fans range from Rush Limbaugh to President Barack Obama.
Tickets to Friday’s show can be purchased at Best Western Sally Port and Los Cerritos and are $30 general admission and $45 VIP. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.