The Real Reason Cheech And Chong Split Up

Throughout the '70s and into the '80s, Richard "Cheech" Marin and Tommy Chong seemed inseparable. The duo pioneered the genre of stoner comedy and played off each other to hilarious effect on records like Big Bambu and Los Cochinos and movies such as Up In Smoke and Nice Dreams. However, like so many creative partnerships, what started out as a match seemingly made in heaven turned into a rivalry and a separation seemingly made in hell. 

In 1985, Cheech and Chong released their last original album and short form video, Get Out of My Room. It included Cheech Marin's song "Born in East L.A.," a parody of Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A.," which seems to have been the final straw in terms of the duo not being able to work together anymore. 

In a 2017 interview with the New York Post, Marin explained that around their third or fourth album, things started to get especially bad. According to him, Tommy Chong "wanted to be recognized for what he perceived his persona to be rather than for the Man [stoner] character." Since he was always playing the character, his true persona didn't come through. Despite the fact that the interpersonal drama didn't affect their chemistry as comedy partners, the offstage rivalry became too much to take. In a Talks at Google interview in 2017, Cheech noted that "[Chong] wanted to be the director and the sole writer....That tension kept building until he didn't want me to write anymore."

Chong was 'a bit of a megalomaniac'

Cheech Marin was particularly upset when Tommy Chong refused to participate in recording "Born in East L.A." The song went on to be adapted into a movie starring Cheech without Chong, an experience Marin later described in an interview with CBS News as "kick[ing] off the rest of my life," as Chong had directed all eight of the movies they made together. Marin remembered Chong's egotistical behavior, noting, "He was the creative genius, and I was the actor and I was lucky to be there — uh, I don't think so." 

Tommy Chong eventually agreed with Cheech Marin's assessment of the situation. In a 2020 interview with All Out Show, he called his current relationship with Marin "great." He also noted that he had been "really really hurt" by their break, but admitted it was "probably [his] fault" as he had become "a bit of a megalomaniac when it came to the movies." After "stewing around the house for a couple of years," Chong was inspired to get back into comedy after seeing a Dennis Miller show one New Year's Eve. He would eventually reunite with Marin, and the two occasionally make appearances as a duo. In 2018 they appeared on The Late Show with Steven Colbert, per Yahoo, and announced that they'd stopped doing stoner comedy now that marijuana was so socially acceptable. They joked that they'd be concentrating on more controversial topics such as unpasteurized dairy products and importing exotic reptiles. Far out, man.