The son of a Los Angeles police officer, American actor/director Richard "Cheech" Marin earned his nickname through his fondness for the Chicano food, specialty cheecharone. An excellent student (if something of a class cutup), Marin entered California State University, only to drop out and hightail it to Canada to avoid the draft. While working as an improvisational comedian with Vancouver's City Work troupe, Marin teamed with Tommy Chong; the Hispanic/Asian duo created the characters of Cheech and Chong, a pair of zoned-out dopers ever in search of the "perfect joint." On the strength of their bestselling record albums, Cheech and Chong were signed for the inexpensive comedy film Up in Smoke (1978), which wound up as one of Warner Bros.' highest-grossing films (not to mention one of its highest, period). As the drug culture lost its momentum, so did the film career of Cheech and Chong, with each of the team's subsequent films making less money than its predecessor. By the time C & C headlined the atrocious The Corsican Brothers (1984), the jig was up. Cheech and Chong split up in 1984 (though they remained friends) and went off to their own projects. While it was Chong who directed many of the team's features, Marin sat in the director's chair for the best of his post-team projects, the 1987 film Born in East L.A, inspired by Cheech's own parody music video. Marin's starring film is Shrimp on the Barbie (1990) contained no drug jokes and fewer laughs (an indication of its quality is the fact that the director had his name removed from the credits in favor of the pseudonymous "Alan Smithee"). Lately regarded as an elder statesman of the counterculture, Marin has kept busy with cameo roles, cartoon voice-overs (Oliver and Company, Ferngully, The Lion King), and a brief stint as a costar of the 1992 TV sitcom "Golden Palace." In 1996, he began co-starring opposite Don Johnson in the television drama Nash Bridges. Around this time he began a fruitful collaboration with independent filmmaker Robert Rodriguez. Marin had a part in Desperado, and played multiple characters in the vampire film From Dusk 'til Dawn for the Austin based maverick. Marin was cast as Kevin Costner's best friend in the golf comedy Tin Cup in 1996. The beginning of the next decade brought Marin an unexpected new audience as he began a series of humorous appearances in family films and lent his vocal talents to a number of animated films. He appeared in all three segments of Rodriguez's Spy Kids series, did vocal work in Good Boy, and voiced one of the Cars in Pixar's film. He also played small parts in John Sayles Silver City, and Bob Dylan's Masked & Anonymous.
Biography by Hal Erickson
- "Cheech" is short for Chicharron (deep-fried pork skin).
- Apprenticed for a Canadian potter as a youth.
- Met Tommy Chong in a Vancouver bar and the two began performing improv routines together soon after. As the comedy troupe Cheech & Chong, they created skits, albums and movies from 1972 to '85.
- Won the first Celebrity Jeopardy! tournament in 1992.
- As of 2011, has provided voices for four Disney animated feature films: Tito in Oliver & Company (1988); Banzai in The Lion King (1994); and Ramone in Cars (2006) and Cars 2 (2011).
- Markets his own line of hot sauce.
- Hobbies include golf and art collecting.