Produced on July 13, 1946, in La, California, Cheech Marin found his calling after assembly Tommy Chong in Canada. Performing as the comedy duo Cheech and Chong, the two released a string of highly successful comedy albums in the 1970s, and became symbols of pot culture using the 1978 movie Up in Smoke. Marin has since enjoyed more success in television and films. He is likewise an enthusiastic art collector.
The son of Oscar, a police officer, and Elsa, a secretary, he was given his well-known nickname, “Cheech,” as a baby via an uncle, who noted the newborn seemed like a chicharron—a deep fried pigskin. Marin grew up in Granada Hills, where he acquired a reputation as a class clown and sang in his friends’ groups.
Marin was delivering carpeting when he met Tommy Chong, a musician who had been running an improv comedy troupe from a strip bar owned by his family. Following a short bout together with the troupe, Marin and Chong started performing as a musical act, then as stand-up comedy duet. As “Cheech and Chong,” they struck a chord with all the late-1960s counterculture crowd by playing up their ethnic stereotypes (Marin was Mexican American; Chong was Scottish-Irish-Chinese) and spoofing their stoner lifestyles.
The two brought their act to La in 1970, and soon after getting the interest of record producer Lou Adler, they released their very first album, Cheech and Chong (1971). Their 1972 followup, Big Bambu, became the greatest-selling comedy album ever at that time, and Los Cochinos, released the following year, earned them a Grammy Award.
In 1978, the duo made a successful transition to the big screen with all the rage stoner strike Up in Smoke. Directed and produced by Adler on a meager budget, the movie shot in more than $100 million in the box office and recognized Cheech and Chong as official symbols of cannabis tradition.
In 1987, Marin composed and directed Born in East L.A., a modestly successful comedy about a Mexican American who erroneously gets deported. Then he supplied the voice of Tito, a Chihuahua, in Disney’s animated Oliver and Company in 1988, but mostly appeared in limited parts during the following couple of years.
Marin’s second act ultimately hit his stride in the mid-1990s, beginning with his voiceover work as Banzai the hyena in Disney’s 1994 megahit, The Lion King.
They followed that with their “Get it Legal” tour, showing that their subversive brand of comedy stayed useful long subsequent to the counterculture movement that spawned it’d passed. Of his profession with Chong, Marin once said, “The thing to get a humor team to reach your goals, what individuals do not understand, is that it includes a great deal of compromise. And the most successful comedy teams—or any type of teams—are teams that have two really strong characters. And when they clash is where the true creativity happens. Lennon McCartney, Keith Richards-Mick Jagger … two different characters and powerful the same manner.”
Marin started collecting artwork throughout the time he embarked on his solo career, and, now, possesses what’s regarded as the biggest private collection of Chicano art on the planet. He presently serves on the boards of the Smithsonian Latino Center along with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, and continues to be honored for his work together with the Latino community.
When not allocating energy to creative and humanitarian endeavors, Marin loves spending time on the golf course. He married his third wife, Natasha, in August 2009, and has three kids from previous unions.