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Tommy Chong in The Marijuana-Logues

“ ‘Martyr’ is the word I use.”

That’s Tommy Chong’s summary of his role in a pair of 2003 DEA busts known as “Operation Pipe Dreams” and “Operation Headhunter.” Of the 55 “criminals” (he’d surely want the quotes there; I’d hardly disagree) indicted, Chong was the only one to receive a prison sentence—he served at California’s Taft Correctional Institution from October 2003 to July 2004—yet he was the only one named in the indictments who was not directly involved with the operation of the company in question. (Chong Glass, chiefly run by his son Paris, merely sold bongs emblazoned with the elder Chong’s mug. Seemed like a good selling point at the time.)

“It was probably the defining moment in my life,” says the 67-year-old Chong, in that old, familiar cadence. (It’s more hoser than stoner, by the way: Chong was born in Edmonton, Alberta.) “It validated basically what I’ve been standing for forever.”

This Saturday, the legendary comic will come to the Palace Theatre to share some personal reflections on his life’s work, so to speak, as part of The Marijuana-Logues, a parody of sorts on the enormously popular Vagina Monologues.

“My two favorite substances,” he quips.

“I love it because it’s pure theater. It’s the first theater I’ve attempted. . . . When I did it in New York, I felt like a real Broadway actor, walking around with my coat over my shoulder.”

Written by comics Arj Barker, Doug Benson, and Tony Camin—all of whom still take part in the performances—the ’Logues simply features three guys, seated (when involved, Chong takes center stage), telling mostly scripted stories about the ol’ sweet leaf. However, a tangent or two can be expected.

“I’m not very good at sticking to scripts,” Chong laughs, “and I do veer off into my own world, which actually helps the show, I think. . . . It’s hard doing the same stuff every night, especially with the subject matter I’m so dear to.”

However, for someone whose act is so inextricably linked with getting high, it’s interesting to note that Chong has not smoked pot for a number of years now—he and his wife, Shelby, took up salsa dancing several years ago, and, as he quickly discovered, “You can’t dance high. It is impossible. I’ve tried it. . . . I presented that theory in court, but it did not go over big.”

“I would like to start a salsa program in the lower-income areas,” he continues. “I think that would have a big, big effect on the drug and crime rate.”

While he continues to work toward making that a reality, he has an ongoing project that might be of interest to his pre-That ’70s Show fans: Up in Smoke—The Play.

“There was supposed to be a movie with New Line . . . but New Line turned it down, said it was too expensive . . . [so] it morphed into a play. Cheech [Marin] and I agreed that we were too old to be doing the Cheech and Chong bits. It’s just very hard to compete with yourself 30 years ago.”

Also on the horizon: widespread screenings of a/k/a Tommy Chong, the award-winning documentary on Chong’s arrest and resultant prison term, and on the confusing and troubling state of the war on drugs. (It opens regionally at the Film Forum in New York City on June 14.) Says the film’s subject, “It’s pretty incredible, and very well-received.”

Tommy Chong will perform in The Marijuana-Logues this Saturday (April 8) at the Palace Theatre (19 Clinton Ave., Albany). Tickets for the 8 PM show are $55, $45, and $35. For more information, call 465-3334.

—John Brodeur

The Dresden Dolls

The Dresden Dolls—the brainchild of writer-singer-pianist Amanda Palmer and drummer Brian Viglione—will come to the area this weekend for a performance in support of their sophomore album, Yes, Virginia (as you might have guessed, the title is taken from the famous 1897 New York Sun letter to the editor and editor’s response), due out this spring. The duo have been cultivating a fast-growing fan base by tireless touring—as headliners and as openers for Nine Inch Nails, among others—so (according to their Web site) they are looking forward to an “explosive” response to Virginia.

The (Boston-based) Dolls’ music has been classified as theatrical rock, punk-cabaret and neo-glam-torch, but the band describe their sound as Brechtian punk cabaret. (For those who don’t get the reference, well, that’s what Wikipedia is for.)

During their live shows, Palmer and Viglione put on not just a concert, but a performance, with theatrics and costumes in addition to music; the Los Angeles Times has said that the “Dolls’ act is performance art with a punk soundtrack.”

The Dresden Dolls will perform at the Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany) on Sunday (April 9) at 8 PM. Golem and Reverend Glasseye will open. Tickets for the concert are $15. For more information or for tickets, call the Egg box office at 473-1845. The Dolls will also appear at the FYE in Colonie Center (1425 Central Ave., Colonie) on Sunday afternoon (check with FYE for the time). For more information about the in-store appearance, call 437-1727.

The Toy Castle Live

The Toy Castle Live is based on the preschool-oriented TV series of the same name that tells “life-lesson” stories in a child’s first language (mime and movement) using classic children’s characters, like the Ballerina, the Rag Doll, the Strongman, and the Soldier.

Part of The Toy Castle mission is to make sure that “clear, universal life values are modeled in every story and that children are able to apply these messages to real-life situations.”

The live version, appearing at the Egg this Sunday as part of the Egg’s Family Dance performance series, serves as a children’s introduction to classic ballet, complete with narration and choreography by Timothy Spain of the National Ballet of Canada.

The Toy Castle Live will be performed at the Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany) on Sunday (April 9) at 3 PM. Tickets are $8-$12. This show is recommended for children ages 2 to 6. For more information or to order tickets, call the Egg box office at 473-1845.


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