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Half of the famed stoner duo Cheech and Chong, Cheech Marin is an accomplished comedian, actor and director.
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Born on July 13, 1946, in Los Angeles, California, Cheech Marin found his calling after meeting Tommy Chong in Canada. Performing as the comedy duo Cheech and Chong, the two released a series of highly successful comedy albums in the 1970s, and became symbols of marijuana culture with the 1978 film Up in Smoke. Marin has since enjoyed more success in television and movies. He's also an avid art collector.
"The thing for a comedy team to be successful, what people don't realize, is that it involves a great deal of compromise."
Richard Anthony Marin was born on July 13, 1946, in South Central Los Angeles, California. The son of Oscar, a police officer, and Elsa, a secretary, he was given his famous nickname, "Cheech," as a baby by an uncle, who remarked that the newborn looked like a chicharron—a deep-fried pigskin. Marin grew up in Granada Hills, where he developed a reputation as a class clown and sang in his friends' bands. He attended California State University, Northridge, where he majored in English literature, but left eight credits short of a degree to move to Vancouver, Canada, and avoid the Vietnam draft.
Marin was delivering carpets when he met Tommy Chong, a musician who was running an improv comedy troupe from a strip bar owned by his family. After a brief spell with the troupe, Marin and Chong began performing as a musical act, then as stand-up comedy duo. As "Cheech and Chong," they struck a chord with the late-1960s counter-culture 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 Los Angeles in 1970, and shortly after catching the attention of record producer Lou Adler, they released their first album, Cheech and Chong (1971). Their 1972 follow-up, Big Bambu, became the highest-selling comedy album in history at the 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 the cult stoner hit Up in Smoke. Directed and produced by Adler on a meager budget, the film took in more than $100 million at the box office and established Cheech and Chong as official symbols of marijuana culture. They wrote and directed multiple sequels to Up in Smoke, but eventually tired of the material, and split up after releasing their ninth album, Get Out of My Room: Cheech and Chong, in 1985.
In 1987, Marin wrote and directed Born in East L.A., a modestly successful comedy about a Mexican-American who mistakenly gets deported. He then provided the voice of Tito, a Chihuahua, in Disney's animated Oliver and Company in 1988, but mainly appeared in limited roles over the next few years.
Marin's second act finally hit his stride in the mid-1990s, starting with his voiceover work as Banzai the hyena in Disney's 1994 megahit, The Lion King. He then enjoyed prominent supporting parts in the Robert Rodriguez films Desparado (1995) and From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), and landed the plum role of Inspector Joe Dominguez on Nash Bridges, a TV crime drama that aired from 1996 to 2001.
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