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Oh, wow, man. Cheech and Chong says their time apart has gone up in smoke

For anybody who didn’t partake in the pot culture of the 1970s, Cheech and Chong were a curio, a one-joke comedy team. But their fans enjoyed the joke, making them huge stars, both on comedy stages, on albums and in film.

But Cheech Marin got tired of it all, leaving behind Tommy Chong in a bitter trail of ashes in 1985. The pair tried and failed numerous times to reconcile — until now.

And crowds are inhaling tickets fast and furiously, welcoming them back with open arms. The tour stops Saturday night in Minneapolis.

“Our first concert in Ottawa, the audience seemed to clap for a good 10 minutes before we even started doing comedy,” Marin says.

Once they started the act, it was like two decades disappeared in a cloud of smoke. Cheech and Chong resurrected old comedy routines such as “Let’s Make a Dope Deal,” scenes from “Up in Smoke,” and classic songs such as “Mexican Americans” and “Born in East L.A.”

“It felt seamless,” Chong says.

“He’s been out there by himself — doing standup — struggling, sweating,” Marin teases Chong. “We get back together, and this is easy.”

“When a show’s over, I’m ready to do it all over again!” Chong adds.

Chong says it’s amazing how many younger people who weren’t even alive when they last did a comedy tour in the early 1980s are in the crowd.

“Those aren’t old hippies,” Chong, 70, says. “Old hippies became old homeless guys afterward.”

“It’s a lot of Yuppies and Guppies,” Marin, 62, notes. “And their kids.”

They even get intellectuals.

“After the Toronto show, this guy came up to Cheech, and he says, ‘I’m in the department of philosophy. I teach critical thinking. I use you guys all the time in references,”‘ Chong says. “We influence people to no end.”

Chong says the tour came about partly because his kids started bugging him to make amends with Marin. “My son,” he said, “wants a little inheritance.”

Thanks to their films, which remain rental staples at Blockbuster, Chong notes that “we left this legacy that was handed down like a rite of passage. It led to all these movies today.” Indeed, films such as “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle” and “Pineapple Express” can trace their roots to Cheech and Chong.

“You can’t take pothead movies seriously,” Chong says. “Those who do don’t know anything about pot. The whole idea is you get wacked. Anything can happen. That’s what I like about ‘Pineapple Express.’ “

Is pot culture more acceptable now than the 1970s?

“It’s more widespread than before,” Chong said. “But let’s gauge it this way: If John McCain wins, pot isn’t as popular as it was. If Barack Obama wins by a landslide, that will tell you right there.”

But McCain’s running Sarah Palin has admitted to smoking marijuana as a teenager (as did Obama.) “She’s from Alaska,” Marin says. “What else is she going to do there?”

Though both support Obama, they say it might be more fun to do pot with Palin: “She’s loveable,” Chong says.

Marin, who opted for a more mainstream acting career after he split from Chong, doesn’t smoke weed anymore. Chong still tokes. In fact, he spent a few months in jail in 2003 and 2004 for hawking pot paraphernalia.

That experience inspired Chong to write two books, including a recent autobiography, where he isn’t always kind toward Marin. Marin says he’s chosen not to read the book to keep the peace.

“I’m not allowed to,” he cracks. “It’s unauthorized. I’ll have to break my parole and have to go back.”

Marin then adds, “Wait till we make a lot of money on this tour. Then I can afford to sue him.”

Who: Cheech and Chong

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Orpheum Theatre, 910 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis

Tickets: $59.50-$39.50; 651-989-5151

www.twincities.com

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