Cheech Marin was born in South Los Angeles to a tight-knit family of cops and priests. What mattered to him was going to school and getting right with God.
By the time he was in middle school, his plan was to become a priest — just like his cousins. But, that was before he tried smoking weed. When Cheech went to college, it was a new world. He was away from home and living with friends, so he decided to venture off the straight and narrow.
One night someone passed him a joint. It was the ’60s, so naturally he got put on. It wasn’t just to smoking pot though. Eventually, it was to the peace movement and to the Chicano civil rights movement. The priesthood was not really on Cheech’s agenda after that.
He became an artist, dropped out of school, and moved to Canada. Then, he met Tommy Chong. They started a double act, and the rest is history. Stoner history.
Their joint film Up in Smoke became a legendary stoner comedy, and Cheech’s acting career took off from there. He was in the Lion King. He starred in more than 100 episodes of Nash Bridges. And if you’re a Spy Kids fan, you know him as fake Uncle Felix.
Cheech is also well known in the art world. He has a huge collection of Chicano art that he’s been steadily building since the 80s. So when the Riverside Art Museum offered him a space to display his collection, Marin was eager to take them up on their offer.
Together, they transformed an empty library in Riverside into The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art and Culture. For short, they call it The Cheech. But, despite all his success as a Chicano art collector, Marin is still acting.
He just worked alongside Jennifer Lopez in the movie Shotgun Wedding on Amazon Prime. It’s about a couple who’ve brought their families together for the ultimate destination wedding — only the bride and groom start to get cold feet and their wedding is invaded by pirates.
He’s also got a part in the new comedy Champions that’s out in theaters now.
This week on Bullseye, we get into Cheech’s long and eventful career as an actor. He throws us back to when he moved to Canada when he first met Tommy Chong. Plus, he talks about his new museum The Cheech in Riverside, California.
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Bullseye is a celebration of the best of arts and culture in public radio form. Host Jesse Thorn sifts the wheat from the chaff to bring you in-depth interviews with the most revered and revolutionary minds in our culture.
Bullseye has been featured in Time, The New York Times, GQ and McSweeney’s, which called it “the kind of show people listen to in a more perfect world.” Since April 2013, the show has been distributed by NPR.
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