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Concert Review: Cheech and Chong

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Venue: Copley Symphony Hall, San Diego (Friday, Nov. 28)

After 25 years apart, Cheech and Chong didn't have to worry that the humor they perfected, if not pioneered, would be stale.

Green leafy gags are hip again. And the duo that personified the genre in the 1970s is back after bogarting their successful multimedia career with an acrimonious split.

Richard "Cheech" Marin and his partner in da kine, Tommy Chong, are in the midst of the six-month Light Up America tour, their first together since 1983. And despite lots more gray or missing hair, it's like the party never stopped.

The impeccable comic timing remains, and despite the ugly breakup, their chemistry was evident. There wasn't the forced camaraderie that's so obvious in so many reunited acts. And material is as effective as ever.

The show was often racy, occasionally profane and genuinely funny. There were visits to Cheech and Chong's hit albums and bong-busying movies, but several bits were from neither and/or included new gags.

Among the material familiar to stoners galaxy-wide was the scene from "Up in Smoke" where Pedro and the Man first meet. There was a cringe-inducing yet knee-slapping new KY reference in the part about the quarter-pounder joint, and when Pedro asks Man if has he any speed, the newly added reply is, "I used it all last night cramming for my urine test."

The same was true for the classic "Let's Make a Dope Deal." The host (Cheech) tells contestant Bob Bitchin' (Chong) that there are prizes behind each of the three doors onstage. Bob replies with a line that would have worked great in the original bit: "Oh yeah, Morrison died."

No, this isn't thinking-man's humor, and subtle it ain't. Like when Cheech sits too close to an old man on a park bench. "Excuse me, sir," Chong says, "Do you speak English?" "Yes," the guy replies. "Good -- f*** off!" But there also were some red-eyed winks to the partakers in the crowd that others might miss ("It's 4:20, time to play 'Let's Make a Dope Deal' ").

Interspersed among the pair's skits together and solo was some well-honed, sometimes riotous material from Chong, who remained in the standup game while Cheech made his name as an actor.

But the most memorable moments, naturally, came when the pair was onstage together. Sure, it would have been great to hear such familiar punch lines as "Dave's not here!" or "Claa-aa-aaas SHUUUUT UUUUP!" but there was only 75 minutes. Among the sorely missed bits was Tyrone Shoelaces belting out "Basketball Jones." It might have inspired a memorable sing-along, judging from the fragrance wafting through the ornate home of the San Diego Symphony.

But it's hard to come away from this show with anything less than a satisfied smile. Well, and maybe a contact buzz.

Cheech and Chong play two shows Dec. 6 at the Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City.

Set list (some titles approximated):
Hitchhiker scene from "Up in Smoke"
Tommy Chong standup
Let's Make a Dope Deal
Chong standup
First Mexican in Space
Old Man in the Park
Chong standup
Red (from "Cheech and Chong's Next Movie")
Blind Melon Chitlin'
Alice Bowie sings the "Earache My Eye" song
Hey Margaret
Chong standup
Ralph and Herbie
Born in East L.A.

ENCORE:
Mexican Americans
Up in Smoke