Cheers to a clown
By Johnny Mumbles
If laughter is the best medicine, then cannabis is the right prescription. If enjoyment is the common thread of our culture, then as a community, how do we inspire entertainment that we can all enjoy? There is no ‘I’ in weed but there is a whole lotta wanna in marijuana. But what do we really want? A half-baked plot, a couple of C list actors and a whole lot of belly laughs seems to appeal. A little respect and human dignity, perhaps? Something entertaining to watch after I get stoned at the end of the day, or maybe at 1 o’clock in the afternoon, still in my sweatpants, eating Honey Nut Cheerios? Indoobitably.
The classic portrayal of a stoner is the jester in the court of conventional comedy. Typecast into a chronic comedic relief, a stoned caricature of bad habits and poor hygiene. Mainstream cannabis content feels so condescending, trying to replicate and artificialize the ritual without engaging with its natural herbal essence. I imagine a director yelling at an actor, “You don’t look high enough! More sluggish, more slovenly, more dazed!” The actor throws in the towel and storms off of the set. “Damn it, man. I’m an actor, not an addict.” As social acceptance has grown, there is a trend of movie stars acknowledging their cannabis use or standing behind the movement. It looks like the limelight is getting a little bit greener. But you better be true to the cause, ‘cause potheads can smell lies like that last little nugget that fell under the couch. Can’t have no Rasta impostas.
How does the culture sculpt a new persona unfettered by the stereotypes of its counterculture roots? We gotta flip tha script. The first step of the public journey was advocating for legality through comedic accessibility. The second stage must be attaining regality through the portrayal of high functioning marijuana users. The shift from laughing at us to laughing with us. Cheech and Chong aren’t role models, they are reefer revolutionaries. But most people don’t want to be part of the revolution. They want to quietly go about their business with a pleasant euphoria. They still want heroes to get high with, but from the safety and comfort of their living room. Do we need a sativa star search or will our champions show their true colours—weed green with little orange hairs?
I think back to the comedies of my youth. Watching the antics of Bill Murray, Gilda Radner or Eddie Murphy in the excess era of the 80s. Most of the comedians I idolized were so drug addled that some of them never came down. As a kid I didn’t know that, and it didn’t matter. While hilarious in my youth, their shenanigans make so much more sense now. As if my sense of humour was sketched in pencil, my growing appreciation has been colouring in the comic strip. I reflect on that era as the birth of modern drug comedy, not because it was about drugs but because the creators were on them. The freedom of their expression was unfettered by conventional limitations. They were free to laugh, free to cry. Free to just get high. But freedom comes with a price. As the genuine becomes generic, the art becomes the artifice.
Comedian Jim Breuer plays the archetypical Hollywood version of a stoner, Brian in the 1998 comedy Half Baked.
We have lost something since that time, authenticity perhaps. Cannabis and comedy have one critical thing in common—quality counts. I’m trying to laugh uncontrollably at a great joke. Then get blazed a week later, remember the line and laugh just as hard. The correct calibre of chronic content is out there but we need more and it should just keep getting better. I’m down $60 bucks between an eighth and a movie ticket. The juice better be worth the squeeze, or rather the bud better be worth the grind. I want to witness the portrayal of herb culture rise from the ashes and grow into something elevating and majestic. Don’t you know you can fly?
Marijuana’s influence may be just what the cultural mainstream needs to chill things out. To slow things down enough for the bloodshot eye to see. I made a movie in college entitled Cookies and Blunts. The plot was straightforward with a little spliff twist. I ordered cookies from a local cookie delivery shop. I rolled a blunt. I smoked that blunt. The cookies showed up. I ate the cookies blunted as fuck. It had the dramatic build-up of Avengers Endgame coupled with the ending of Shawshank Redemption. Needless to say, it was a cinematic masterpiece. The seeds are planted but the field is still wide open. I have pipe dreams of content showcasing the finer points of herb culture from reefer reality series to pot procedurals and ganja game shows. First, I have to give true credit to the reviewers, the ones baring their souls on skunk.
Youngn’s are getting paid to get high and make video reviews of different cannabis accessories and strains. Smoking this and dabbing that while attempting to provide coherent feedback. Influencer is the name of the position and being under the influence is the job description. Someone getting blazed on video isn’t funny for the reason you think it would be. It’s profound because it is a new type of artistic expression. If this person were reviewing a blender or grill, I would skip to the synopsis and move on with my life. Instead, I am captured by the raw humanity portrayed through their public intoxication, their vulnerabilities laid barer with each bowl hit. I am entranced by the life decisions that brought them to this achievement. This is their dream job. I’m happy they made it. They are smoking the joint of life with an ashtray full of destiny and I am laughing uncontrollably all the way to the filter.
Speaking of broadcast blazing, I just watched Conan O’Brien light up a joint with Seth Rogen on live tv. There are Instagram celebrities like the Dabbing Granny with over a million followers and suburban housewives like The Stoner Mom laying out their bongs and their personal business in vlogs for everyone to see. Pot personas are putting themselves out there and the people are loving it. If we haven’t already arrived, then we may have dozed off and missed our stop. Either way, pro-grass is progress.
As real as it gets, Conan O'Brian takes a hit off Seth Rogen's joint on live TV.
Then there is the marijuana-infused culinary shows. Cannabis chefs do extraordinary things while judges get stoned out of their gourds. The contestants often leave crying and the judges’ television careers usually end there too. But why can’t everyone win? What if instead of being eliminated, a contestant was introduced to their secret lost twin, who has also been studying cannabis culinary arts and jumps out on stage to back them up. I got a few other ideas too. Hit this shit a couple of times and hear me out.
How about a show called Jynx where contestants smoke a joint while yelling out what they think the other person is going to say. Or a series called Bong, Bong, Surprise! where contestants take a bong hit and have to hold it for 20 seconds while a curtain is raised. Behind the curtain could be anything from a bouquet of flowers, a new car or even a grizzly bear, but they can’t blow out the bong hit for 20 seconds in order to win. What about a detective procedural called Sherlock Homes. Every episode ends with the main character smoking a fat doobie and having an herbal epiphany that doesn’t have anything to do with the original mystery. “Eureka, Watson! I can’t feel my face.” Credits roll.
The curtains are opening for ganja as it takes the main stage, but the pot is already getting divvied up. We must be the authors of our story or someone else will write the narrative for us. When I reflect on my favourite stoner movies I can’t always tell if we are moving forwards or just flicking our BICs. When are we going to see a chronic cinematic creation worthy of an Oscar nomination? Are these all just Nice Dreams that will go Up In Smoke if we are Still Smoking? How High can we get Half Baked? Am I just Dazed and Confused on a Friday searching for a Pineapple Express on the way to White Castle? Is the Big Lebowski about being the Buddha or just smoking it? I think it can be about both. Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, my opinion, man!
All of this talk about the stoner stereotype has me wondering if I am stumbling into the same pitfalls that I decry. If we are all just playing the role that's easiest to get. Underestimating the under the influence audience by going for the quickest laugh or the simplest punch line. I think we have more to offer and more to expect, all in our own special weeded way. Face it, we are the oddballs. The characters in the story that go around back to sneak a toke and crack a joke. The ones giggling in the corner for no apparent reason at all. The people making heartfelt videos about why this bong is better than another, while getting eye twitchingly, sweat drenched, astronomically blazed out of their minds. These pure, sincere, joyful, euphoric moments are the gift we have to share with the world. Perhaps if we are willing to show a little bit more of ourselves, we will find ourselves enjoying the show a little bit more. Are you not entertained?
Listen on Spotify
Music has always led the way by bringing cannabis culture into mainstream entertainment. Herb and music have an amazing bond with a profoundly diverse catalogue. Whether bobbing your head to that signature beat or swaying back and forth to psychedelic vibes, there is truly something for everyone, by everyone. I hope that we will see marijuana similarly flourish in film and TV. Music is the universal language, and when it speaks in the dialect of the dank the world stops to listen. Now we just have to inspire people to press play and then pause to share a few laughs. These are a few jams that Johnny Mumbles vibes on when the joint gets lit and he is looking to put a smile on the forecast.
Johnny Mumbles is a lifelong cannabis connoisseur. After years of exploring America's marijuana meccas, he’s settled down as a card-carrying medical cannabis patient. An adult diagnosis of epilepsy inspired the exploration of the medical benefits of CBD along with his faithful compatriot, THC. Aside from travelling the path to enlightenment, he spends his time making hip hop cassette mixtapes, watching VHS movies and rattling away on a typewriter. His goal is to elevate the cannabis conversation by any means possible, one head at a time. The Tao te Ching says, “Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.” He knows just enough to not speak clearly.
Follow Johnny Mumbles on Instagram here: @johnny.mumbles
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