Before I get to my review of Cheech & Chong: Roasted, the TV show that'll air on TBS at 10 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 30 — and the TV taping over the weekend at Caesars Palace was a mess from start to finish thanks to production snafus, delays, and some awful attempts at roasting — let's meet our roast victims, Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong, the pioneering stoner comics of the 1970s who have reunited after many years apart.
So yes, they're happy to be together again and touring with a live show. But what about the roast, which is sure to test the TBS editing crew?
Things I learned from watching the TV taping of Cheech & Chong: Roasted…
1) Wilmer Valderrama cannot roast. Even with a TelePrompter, Valderrama (who worked with Chong on That 70s Show, or rather, the other way around) had difficulty delivering the simplest punchlines. After a break, Greg Giraldo seemed to offer him a sheet of his leftover jokes. But a few "Yo Momma" quips from Valderrama also failed to hit their targets.
2) Brad Garrett dealt with all of the delays — the one-hour show took two hours to tape — and the constant hecklers with equal amounts of poise and humor. When someone in the audience shouted, "Turn up the sound!" during the first minutes, Garrett replied: "Turn up the sound? This guy actually thinks he's at home watching!" Later, when the crew took yet another break for commercials and notes, Garrett quipped: "If it's not live, what are we waiting for???"
3) Matt Braunger had probably the toughest gig that night, warming up the audience for an extra 25 minutes, not knowing when the show would begin and playing to an uninterested crowd. "I didn't even know I was doing this until this morning," Braunger said. "I got a call. 'About this Cheech & Chong roast.' 'Yeah, what about it? I'm watching it.' 'No, no, you're doing warm-up for stoner hippies.'"
4) As soon as the lights dimmed for a pre-taped retrospective narrated by Andy Dick, marijuana smoke filled the air throughout the Palace Ballroom at Caesars Palace.
5) The Rev. Al Sharpton, who knew Cheech & Chong from back in the 1970s, when Sharpton wasn't a reverend but in fact the tour manager for James Brown, apparently bailed at the last minute. "This douchebag…he literally bailed on us minutes ago," Garrett told the audience, so a seemingly randomly chosen black guy in a suit sat in for Sharpton on the dais.
6) The custom big bong podium presented issues early and often, starting with the first roaster, Ralphie May. Production halted. Was the podium too high? During the delay, May got into fighting words with Tom Arnold. And it didn't look like good clean roasting fun, either. May shouted at Arnold: "If I gained 10 more pounds, you'd try to f&*@ me!" The crew tried fixing the podium with tape, at which point, Garrett joked: "Oh, that's going to look great in HD!" The podium later broke during Penn & Teller's time onstage.
7) Martha Stewart and Steve Carell both filmed pre-taped messages, which cut back and forth between them at their TV studios. Carell naturally went with a tall tale about his brother, who was an even bigger fan of Cheech & Chong, so much so that…well…it didn't end well. But it was funny.
8) Here's a shocker. Geraldo Rivera might not be able to be believed, and also might not know how to deliver a racial joke. Onstage, Rivera claimed: "I have gotten high with Cheech & Chong in every country in the western world!" Cheech later contradicted Rivera by saying he never smoked. Go figure. Rivera also tried joking that Obama voters really meant to cast their ballots for Sharpton but got there late because they were on "colored time." Groan.
9) When the podium broke on Penn & Teller, the silent Teller grabbed part of the plexiglass pipe for a sight gag to go with his smoking suit.
10) Tom Arnold's fly was down, and he didn't seem to care. He was the butt of many jokes, but did manage to get off one good ribbing back at Garrett: "I love your new show on TMZ where you beat up the little fellers with the cameras."
11) After Wilmer Valderrama kept flubbing his lines, he attempted to recover with this: "Not speaking English has made me a lot of money!"
12) The crowd began shouting for Greg Giraldo long before his turn onstage, and Giraldo delivered the funniest lines of the evening. He got a standing O from Ralphie May after he described May as "the only guy who comes in porn when the guy delivers the pizza." To Geraldo: "You are to journalism what Ralphie May is to pole vaulting." To Shelby Chong: "Or as Cheech calls her, Smoke-o Ono." To the duo of the evening: "Just when I thought they were gone, they're back – the herpes of comedy!" Giraldo also did a hilarious impersonation of Chong in jail, and edited himself on the prompter, knowing he wouldn't even have time for the 10 minutes of jokes he did end up delivering.
13) Chong, who has continued to tour stand-up clubs with his wife in recent years, had plenty of jokes ready for his longtime partner, saying he'd go down to Home Depot looking for a new Cheech. "Every time I found someone who looked like you, I hired him!" And this one: "He's definitely old-school Mexcian now…his two favorite low riders are his balls!"
14) Cheech, meanwhile, has been busy with TV and movies, and had a briefer, more sentimental speech for Chong, whom he met in Vancouver, British Columbia, a lifetime ago (well, my lifetime, at least). "A lot of highs together, and even when we were low, we were high," Cheech said.