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8 Surprising Facts about Tommy Chong

Catch Tommy Chong on That '70s Show Mondays & Tuesdays from 6-11P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

We all know his work with Cheech and Chong and his role as Leo on That ’70s Show, but it turns out there’s a lot more to Tommy than “Dave’s Not Here.” Here are some of the most interesting and not all pot related facts about Tommy Chong.

1. He Played with the Jackson 5

No, Tommy Chong wasn’t a forgotten Jackson. Before comedy, Tommy was a guitar player for a band that changed names many times and eventually became Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers. They had a hit with “Does Your Mama Know About Me,” that went to #29 on the Billboard Hot 100. During their touring days, a little group called the Jackson 5 would open for them. Chong doesn’t have too many sordid stories of the young Michael Jackson later only referring to him as “a cute little guy.” To be fair, Tommy was probably stoned at the time. It’s a wonder he even remembers meeting the King of Pop.


2. The Lion King Almost Became A Cheech and Chong Film

Chong Lion King
Disney

Cheech Marin voiced the hyena Banzai in The Lion King and originally Tommy Chong was going to voice Shenzi, the other talking hyena. But Disney decided to make the character female and Whoopi Goldberg ultimately voiced the role. Also, maybe Disney didn’t want a duo known for popularizing weed in their children’s film.


3. He Broke a Record at the Semi-Finals of Dancing with the Stars

Chong dance
ABC

People thought Tommy Chong would not last on Dancing with the Stars, but he kept making the cut week after week. By the time he got to the semi-finals at age 76, he was the oldest celebrity to ever make it that far. Sadly, he was beat out by the daughter of somebody on Duck Dynasty, giving us all another reason to hate Duck Dynasty.


4. His Daughter was in The Color Purple

Chong daughter
Warner Brothers/FanPix

Tommy Chong has five kids, three of which are successful actors themselves. Rae Dawn Chong was Squeak in The Color Purple and has appeared in many other roles in film and TV. His daughter Precious Chong, has the best name ever and was in LA Confidential and Pearl Harbor. Also, they look nothing like their dad.


5. He’s been in everything from That ’70s Show to Zootopia

Chong 70s show
FOX

Leo, the stoned owner of Foto Hut, isn’t Tommy Chong’s only TV role. He’s stepped in for one time appearances on Miami Vice, Nash Bridges, and Dharma and Greg. In recent years, Chong has contributed voicework to everything from Zootopia to Uncle Grandpa.


6. The DEA Spent $12 Million to Put Him in Jail

Chong prison
Youtube

Operation Pipe Dreams was a huge DEA enterprise to crack down on people selling drug paraphernalia. 55 people were arrested, but the only person to serve jail time was Tommy Chong, due to his part of the bong selling business Chong Glass/Nice Dreams. Yeah, he was sentenced to a fine and nine months in prison for selling bongs. Operation Pipe Dreams cost the government $12 million and its only triumph was making Chong miss a season of That 70’s Show.


7. He Inspired the Wolf of Wall Street in Jail

Wolf of Wall Street
Paramount Pictures

Tommy Chong certainly made the most of his jail time. His cell mate was Jordan Belfort, the author of the book Martin Scorsese’s film The Wolf of Wall Street was based on. According to Belfort, Tommy Chong encouraged him to write his memoirs, which eventually lead to the Oscar nominated film. They’re still friends today.


8. He’s Gotten High With Everyone

Cheech and Chong

We couldn’t leave this list without some weed smoking trivia. Though it’s no surprise that Chong’s gotten high a number of times, he’s smoked with the best in the biz. In a Rolling Stone article, Tommy says he toked up with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Sly and the Family Stone, Jimi Hendrix, Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart, Keith Moon, Wally from Leave it to Beaver, and all of the Beatles except Paul. There’s still time, Paul!

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…