Thomas "Tommy" B. Kin Chong (born May 24, 1938) is a Canadian/American actor and musician who is well-known for his stereotypical portrayals of hippie-era stoners. He is most widely known for his role as Chong in the marijuana-themed Cheech & Chong comedy movies with Cheech Marin. He played Leo Chingkwake on FOX's That '70s Show.
Chong was born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, the son of Lorna Jean (née Gilchrist), a waitress, and Stanley Chong, a truck driver. Chong's father was of Chinese descent and his mother was of Scotch-Irish ancestry. When Chong was still young, the family moved to Calgary, Alberta, to a neighbourhood Chong refers to as the Dog Patch. He says that his father had "been wounded in World War II, and there was a veterans' hospital in Calgary. He bought a five-hundred dollar house in Dog Patch, and raised his family on fifty dollars a week".
By age eleven Chong was playing guitar, chiefly country-and-western music. Soon, he was introduced to rhythm and blues, became a professional musician, and quit school. He formed one of Calgary's earliest rock and roll/rhythm and blues bands, the Colors or the Shades, but was eventually requested by the police to leave town after a particularly rowdy gig, according to his account. Chong and the Shades then left for the closest metropolis, Vancouver, where Chong bought a club, the Elegant Parlour, and played guitar and sang in the house band, a Motown-style band named Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers, briefly featuring a very young Jimi Hendrix. Among his compositions for the group were "Does Your Mama Know About Me", which hit #29 on the United States pop chart and #5 on the US R&B chart.
Cheech & Chong
Cheech and Chong, while one of the most successful comedy acts of all time, experienced creative differences and split in 1985. This was devastating to Chong. To him, Cheech was "closer than a wife. The only thing we didn't do was have sex." Of their split, he says, "It was like a death in the family. I don't know if I'll ever get over it". Chong was a recurring character and later a regular character as the hippie "Leo" during the second, third, fourth, seventh, and eighth seasons of That '70s Show. He also played a role as a hippie in Dharma and Greg. In 2005, Chong returned to his role as Leo on That '70s Show.
Chong was originally going to voice the character of Shenzi the hyena in the Disney film The Lion King, which would have had him performing once more with Cheech Marin, who voiced Banzai (the Shenzi character was later changed to be female, and voiced instead by Whoopi Goldberg).
In September 2005 a/k/a Tommy Chong premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. The documentary, produced, written and directed by Josh Gilbert, chronicles Chong's comedic and personal history, which motivated Federal Prosecutor Mary Beth Buchanan to target him in the Justice Department's 12 million dollar sting, "Operation Pipe Dream," under Attorney General John Ashcroft. The project features interviews with Cheech Marin, Bill Maher, George Thorogood, Peter Coyote, Lou Adler, Eric Schlosser and Jay Leno.
Chong was married to his first wife, Maxine Sneed from 1960 until their divorce in 1970. Their children were Rae Dawn and Robbi. He married his second wife Shelby in 1975. He has three children with her: sons Paris and Gilbran, and daughter Precious. Marcus (b. Marcus Wyatt, 1967), now Marcus Chong was adopted by Chong (it is unclear if Maxine is Marcus' mother, which would make him half-brother to Rae Dawn as held by popular belief). The timing is not clear since Precious (b. 1968) was born to Chong and Shelby while he was still married to Maxine. Marcus, Robbi, and Rae Dawn have all pursued careers in acting. Although not widely recognized or active in the Asian Canadian community, Chong is certainly the most famous of Asian Canadian hippies, and among if not the most famous Asian Canadian comics of all time. In the late 1980s, Chong became a naturalized citizen of the United States.
Chong is a marijuana activist and is a supporter of marijuana legalization & medical use of marijuana. He is a regular contributor to Cannabis Culture Magazine and sits on the NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) advisory board.
In 2003, Chong was targeted by two American investigations code-named Operation Pipe Dream and Operation Headhunter, which sought out businesses selling drug paraphernalia, mostly water pipes. He was charged for his part in financing and promoting Chong Glass/Nice Dreams, a company started by his son Paris. Chong agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute drug paraphernalia in exchange for non-prosecution of his wife, Shelby, and his son. While 54 of the 55 individuals charged as a result of the operations were sentenced to fines and home detentions, Chong was sentenced on September 11, 2003, to 9 months in a federal prison, forfeiture of $103,000, and a year of probation.
While government officials denied that Chong was treated any differently from the other defendants, many felt that he was made an example of by the government. Soon afterwards, marijuana advocates started the Free Tommy Chong! movement that called for his release. Chong served his sentence from October 8, 2003 to July 7, 2004, and in December 2004 was to appear off-Broadway in a show entitled The Marijuana-Logues, a parody of Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues. His legal concerns, including that audiences were actually smoking marijuana in some of the shows early in its tour ultimately caused him to quit the show.
In 2006, Chong wrote a book about his experiences in jail and his interest in meditation, called The I Chong: Meditations From The Joint (ISBN 1-4169-1554-0)
- That 70s Show (2006) - Leo
- South Park (2000) - Chief Running Pinto
- Dharma & Greg (1999) - Carl
- Sliders (1997) - Van Elsinger
- Nash Bridges (1997) - Barry Chen
- The George Carlin Show (1994) - Unknown
- Miami Vice (1986) - T.R. 'Jumbo' Collins
- PLAYBOY Comedy Roast for Tommy Chong (1986)
- American Drug War: The Last White Hope (2007)... Private Prison Prisoner
- Chinaman's Chance (2007)... Deputy Tom
- Evil Bong (2006)... Jimbo Leary
- Secret Agent 420 (2005)... QP
- Best Buds (2003)... Tommy Chong/Carlos
- The Wash (2001)... Dee's Connection
- Half Baked (1998)
- McHale's Navy (1997)... Armando/Ernesto
- Senior Trip (1995)... Red
- FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992)... Root
- Life After Sex (1992)... ???
- The Spirit of '76 (1990)... Stoner
- Far Out Man (1990)... Far Out Man
- Tripwire (1990)... Merle Shine
- After Hours (1985)... Pepe (as Chong)
- Get Out of My Room (1985)... The Man
- Cheech & Chong's The Corsican Brothers (1984)... Corsican Brother
- Yellowbeard (1983)... El Nebuloso
- Still Smokin' (1983)... Chong
- Things Are Tough All Over (1982)... Chong/Prince Habib
- Nice Dreams (1981)... Chong
- Cheech & Chong's Next Movie (1980)... Chong
- Up in Smoke (1978)... Anthony 'Man' Stoner