Many know him as one of the kings of stoner comedy and many also know him as one half of the Cheech and Chong duo, but there is more than meets the eye to the pot-smoking, joke spitting comedian.
Tommy Chong has a long and storied history in comedy and film, but there is more than meets the eye to the man responsible for bringing the cannabis subculture to the forefront of popular culture.
Here are 9 surprising facts you probably did not know about Mr. Chong.
1. The Jackson 5 Used to Open for His Band
Yes, the Jackson 5 featuring Michael Jackson. Tommy Chong used to perform a little known band called Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers, who had a hit with “Does Your Mama Know About Me.” During his days on tour, the Jackson 5 used to open for his band. Definitely, a fact that many people do not realize, and even Mr. Chong himself says he does not remember too much about meeting a young Michael Jackson.
2. He Was Actually Born in Canada
It always shocks America to learn that one of their beloved cult heroes is actually Canadian, but Mr. Tommy Chong himself was actually born in Canada. Born May 24th, 1938 in Edmonton, Alberta, Tommy Chong became an American citizen in the 1980s. While it should come as no surprise that one of the most prolific figures in cannabis comes from the pot-loving country of Canada, you can read more about his exploits over at LeafyThings to see for yourself. In fact, Tommy Chong is one of many prominent cannabis-loving musicians from the Great White North.
3. His Cellmate in Jail Was The Wolf of Wall Street
First of all, Tommy Chong spent a short 9-month period in jail for marijuana paraphernalia, but the craziest part is that his cellmate was none other than Jordan Belfort, more commonly known as the “Wolf of Wall Street.” While in jail, Mr. Chong helped give Belfort the idea to write down his life story in a memoir, which would eventually turn into Martin Scorsese’s wildly popular film of the same name. Crazy, but true stuff.
4. He Was the Oldest Semi-Finalist On Dancing With the Stars
Somehow, this one feels like the most unbelievable fact, but here it is. At a spry 76 years old, Tommy Chong made it to the semi-finals of the popular dance contest reality show, which made him the oldest contestant to get that far. It might seem like an odd true fact, but apparently, even well into his senior years, he still has enough moves to win over the crowd and judges. Just another talent he can add to his repertoire.
5. He Was Part of a Multimillion-Dollar Arrest Operation
As mentioned above, Tommy Chong spent some time in prison, so what exactly landed him in hot water with the law? Well, as you could probably guess, he was arrested for involvement with selling marijuana paraphernalia (bongs). It might sound strange that law enforcement would spend so much money trying to lock him up, in fact, it was $12 million, but they arrest 50+ other people. Luckily, Mr. Chong did not really commit any serious crimes so he was only sent to prison for those 9 months, but the fact that the DEA spent so much to capture everyone’s lovable, and harmless stoner celeb is quite an accomplishment in its own right.
6. He Was Going to Be a Part of a Disney Movie
Who would have ever expected Cheech and Chong to be involved in a Disney movie and The Lion King no less? This is definitely a shocking fact when you consider what they were famous for, but Disney also saw something in the famous duo. Chong was set to play one of the two hyenas, named Shenzi, alongside his comedic partner who did end up voicing Banzai, but he was later recast. Whoopi Goldberg was chosen so they could use a female voice, but the fact that they considered Chong is still a pretty wild what-if.
7. He Has Smoked Weed With a Huge List of Celebrities
Many people in Hollywood smoke weed, this is not a surprising fact, but some of the people on Chong’s list are quite remarkable. Some of the distinguished people he has reported to have talked up with include former Mr. Olympia/Terminator/Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzeneggar, Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix (not a surprise, but cool nonetheless!), former Laker and Hall of Fame basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and nearly the entire Beatles group minus Paul McCartney, among many more A-list names. While they are not shocking considering how popular cannabis is in show business, it is a pretty crazy list.
8. He Was Survived Cancer Multiple Times
Tommy Chong, like so many unfortunate people, developed cancer on two occasions. The first instance was developing prostate cancer shortly after being released from prison, and the second time was back in 2015 when he was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. The first brush with cancer, he was said to have treated it with a healthy diet, exercise, and of course, weed but he required chemotherapy for his second diagnosis. Thankfully for all of his fans, his family, and his friends, he has recovered and is living happy and healthy to this day!
9. He Has Been in Numerous Shows and Movies
He, and fellow star Cheech Marin, maybe most famous for their stoner romps with movies like Up in Smoke, Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie, or Nice Dreams, but Chong has been featured in many different shows and movies over the years. With appearances in Zootopia, Color Out of Space, and his recurring role as Leo in That 70’s Show, Mr. Chong has made quite a nice little film and TV career for himself.
Well, there you have it. Tommy Chong may be most well known for his hilarious comedy duo antics with the equally talented Cheech Marin, or his career in music, or his cannabis activism, but there is a lot more to him than meets the eye. These surprising facts reveal just how crazy and cool the life of Tommy Chong truly is.