“I’m Chong, man.”
That’s how Tommy Chong introduced himself to his new dancing partner and reintroduced himself to the world last Monday. A pre-recorded segment shown before Chong made his debut on Dancing With the Stars had him stumbling out of the back of a smoke-filled hippie van.
The green theme in his clothes — and everything else on stage — during his performance wasn’t subtle, but neither is Chong. He makes no secret about his goal of furthering the medical marijuana cause during his time on the show. Maybe it’s just for the easy puns, but ABC doesn’t have a problem with it.
“Absolutely the opposite.” Chong says when asked about backlash from representing marijuana on a “family” show. He explains that people have trouble demonizing the plant now that they are seeing how much it can help sick people. He claims his advocacy lets people understand him better.
“That pretty much shows everybody that I’m an actor playing a stoner, not a stoner playing an actor.”
Doctors diagnosed Chong with prostate cancer in 2012. A year later, after foregoing traditional chemotherapy in favor of high-dosage cannabis oil treatments, the comedian declared victory over the Big C. Along with a renewed faith in the healing powers of cannabis, Chong credits his cancer scare with being in better than average shape.
“I had to change my diet, then I had to get serious about working out. All that led to me being in shape enough so that I can dance with these young people.”
Despite being the oldest cast member at 76, Chong says he feels good. He compared being old on a dance show to having a big handicap in a golf tournament. Rehearsals, on the other hand, are no walk in the park.
“They go for 4 hours, 5 hours sometimes. It’s very intense.” says Chong. “Like a boot camp for dancers. We’re going into battle, so we have to be prepared.”
The wise gateway
Media and television continue to rely on stereotypes of lazy pot smokers as nothing more than comic relief. While Chong joins in on the marijuana gags and puns, a chat with him reveals that there is more to him than this. He says once people know that he is supporting medical marijuana openly on the show, that’s the first question they ask.
In this spirit, the NORML Advisory Board Member shared with Marijuana.com his new take on the “gateway drug” theory.
“Well, it is a gateway drug, but if you use the gate wisely it can open the door from a lot of addictions like cigarettes or alcohol, but especially cigarettes.” Chong says.
He went on to explain that when his was 20 years old, he smoked cigarettes. He decided to quit cigarettes, so every time he wanted a cigarette, he’d smoke a joint instead.
“It’s a gateway to good things.” Chong says after also telling about alcoholics who have given up their harmful addiction with the help of marijuana.
As for the specific benefits of marijuana, Chong feels overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information available. He says that when asked to justify his position, he often tells people to search “marijuana” on Google.
“You know, just Google it and find out the truth for yourself,” Chong says. “I can only talk on my experiences.”
DWTS- Week 2
Chong will be displaying his moves again Monday night doing a fast salsa with partner Peta. He promises more septuagenarian sex appeal for judge Julianne Hough who expressed pleasure at his smooth moves the first time around.
“Fast and sexy.” Chong says of tonight’s dance. “That’s the best way to describe it.”
When asked who he would most like to get high with among the judges, it was choreographer Bruno Tonioli who got the honors.
“Bruno’s the kind of guy who would try something and then ask you what it was.”
As for cast members, Tommy showed his fondness for his partner Peta Murgatroyd, saying that she’s the only cast member he wants to get high with.
Even though Chong came in 7th place last week with the judge’s scoring, pulling in a 27 out of 40, he says he not worried about his chances going forward.
“I’m not nervous because I know I have a lot of fan support and it’s my own personal belief that fan support is stronger than anything else.” Chong says confidently. “If you have the fan support, you can stay on the show for a long time and even win it.”
With multiple generations having fallen in love with Chong’s comedy and personality over the decades, he has plenty to be confident about. Whether those same fans will tune in to vote is another story, but if the audience and judge reaction to his first dance is any indicator, Chong’s quirky “sexy grandpa” is picking up new fans already.