Episode 3: Mike O’Hearn interviews Tommy Chong about his unexpected connection to the bodybuilding world.

Tommy Chong is most famous as being part of the comedic duo – Cheech & Chong. The stoner comedies and Chong’s love of marijuana remained a staple of his personal through to today. But many people may know that Chong also had a close relationship with bodybuilding and the Golden Era bodybuilders of Pumping Iron fame. That’s why Mike O’Hearn brought on Tommy Chong for a full length interview to discuss his past, his discovery of bodybuilding, and share a few funny bodybuilding weed stories including greats like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Zabo Koszewski. Read on for a breakdown of the latest episode of Generation Iron & Barbend’s The Mike O’Hearn Show.

Tommy Chong might not have the physique of a bodybuilder – but his connection to the sport actually runs pretty deep. He respects greatly the focus, dedication, and mentality of the bodybuilder lifestyle. He hung out at Gold’s Gym, was trained by Vince Gironda, and spent time with the Golden Era bodybuilders such as Zabo Koszewski, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Tom Platz.

Underneath it all – Tommy Chong most connected with the work ethic that went into sculpting perfect physiques in bodybuilding. Chong came from a poor upbringing and learned how the value of hard work could bring him out of poverty and achieve the goals he set in his life. While those goals ultimately leaned towards music and comedy – he sees that same mentality displayed physically in pro bodybuilders as they build their physiques.

Mike O’Hearn took some time to discuss Tommy Chong’s childhood and struggles during his upbringing before jumping into some bodybuilding stories. Let’s jump into it.

Tommy Chong’s childhood, poverty, and rise to success

Tommy Chong grew up in Canada with very little money. Because of this – he found work wherever he could with blue collar odd jobs. His first ever job was mowing lawns at 10 years old. Chong explains when you grow up poor and live in a poor part of the country – there is always a job to be had somewhere if you are willing to put your head down and work hard.

Tommy Chong explains that this early “training” of learning to work hard while he was a kid gave him the mindset of working hard on everything he put his mind into – no matter the challenge. He considers this a big reason why he was able to succeed in music and later in comedy. It wasn’t just talent. It was hard work to make people take notice.

Tommy Chong’s family went through such hardships – that Chong eventually had to go to an orphanage for a short period of time. During that time he would find solace in being alone. That alone time allowed him to discover himself. To understand and define himself. This, in combination with the hard work, gave him focus to succeed at his endeavors.

Tommy Chong Discovering Bodybuilding

So how did Tommy Chong get into the bodybuilding world? When he was a young man, he was very small and skinny. As a teen he would play sports – but was told he would need to train to stand alongside the other athletes. So Chong found a hardcore bodybuilding gym where he could afford to train – and quickly discovered a respect and love for weightlifting.

Fast forward to Tommy Chong’s movie career and success. He purposefully wanted to move to LA so he could train at Gold’s Gym while building his film career. He would train at Gold’s Gym because it was cheap – and he enjoyed the company and mentality of the bodybuilders who would train there such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Zabo Koszewski. He would become good friends with Zabo and share a few funny exchanges with Arnold before Chong became famous:

“One time [Arnold Schwarzenegger] said to me, he said, ‘You know I look at you and – what’s wrong with your body? And I realize, you have no shoulders! And so that’s what I would concentrate on.”

Years later, when Tommy Chong was preparing for a movie. He decided to reach out to the legendary Vince Gironda for some training sessions. Because he was living a more lavish life as a movie star by this point – after some successful sessions – Chong would overpay Gironda to show his gratitude. This led to Gironda becoming Chong’s personal trainer.

A combination of these moments all led to Tommy Chong being a personality integrated into the Golden Era bodybuilding crew. He would train at Gold’s Gym, have fun laughs with the bodybuilders, and leave with a collection of great stories.

Marijuana Stories With Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Pumping Iron Bodybuilders

The connection between weed and bodybuilding is more popular today than in the past. But in either case, by this point everyone in the bodybuilding world is familiar with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famous scene in Pumping Iron – where he smokes a joint while wearing his “Numero Uno” t-shirt. With Tommy Chong hanging out with the Golden Era bodybuilders – Mike O’Hearn wanted to know if there were any funny weed stories that Chong could share.

Tommy Chong explains that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s actions – smoking weed openly – signaled to other bodybuilders that the effects of marijuana were helpful and not detrimental to bodybuilding. If Schwarzenegger could be the best in the world while smoking weed – so could anyone.

Chong also tells some great stories involving fun times he has had with pro bodybuilders and smoking weed – including a fun game with a bong and an eighth of weed that would bring a lot of entertainment to the Golden Era bodybuilders.

Wrap Up

Tommy Chong is a man with an interesting life, fantastically talented career, and a surprising amount of bodybuilding. We could barely cover it all in this article – so be sure to watch the full interview in our latest episode of The Mike O’Hearn Show above! And don’t forget to stop by every Friday for new episodes of the podcast each week!

Header image courtesy of Weed Review.

Derek Dufour
Derek Dufour has been managing all digital operations on the Generation Iron Network for over six years. He currently manages a team of editors, writers, and designers to provide up-to-date content across the GI Network.