Marin's trademark is his characters' strong Mexican accents.
Marin was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Oscar Marin, a policeman in the LAPD, and his wife Elsa (Meza), a secretary. He is Mexican American. Marin was born with a cleft lip, which was repaired. He speaks some Spanish and uses it in his movies, but he is not fluent.
Marin's nickname "Cheech" is short for "chicharron", a fried pork skin that is a popular snack and an ingredient in Mexican cuisine. In a 2017 NPR interview, Marin attributed the nickname to his uncle: "I came home from the hospital, I was like a couple days old or something, my uncle came over and he looked in the crib and he said [in Spanish], 'Ay, parece un chicharrón.' Looks like a little chicharrón, you know?"
Marin graduated from Bishop Alemany High School and then studied at San Fernando Valley State College (now California State University, Northridge), where he was a member of Phi Sigma Kappa. He dropped out before graduating. Marin auditioned to sing for Frank Zappa in 1967, but he moved to Vancouver, British Columbia in September to dodge the draft during the Vietnam War. Marin met his future comedic partner, Tommy Chong, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
As a part of the highly successful comedy duo Cheech & Chong, Marin participated in a number of comedy albums and feature film comedies in the 1970s and 1980s. Tommy Chong directed four of their films while co-writing and starring in all seven with Marin.
After Cheech & Chong disbanded in 1985, Marin starred in a number of films as a solo actor, most notably Born in East L.A., The Shrimp on the Barbie, Tin Cup, and Once Upon a Time in Mexico. He made a cameo appearance as a dockworker in Ghostbusters II.
Marin made the transition to full-time television work when he co-starred on the short-lived The Golden Girls spin-off The Golden Palace (1992–1993), and later with Don Johnson, Jaime P. Gomez, and Yasmine Bleeth in the police show Nash Bridges (1996–2001), in which they played San Francisco police-detective partners. In recent years he has been active in playing supporting roles in films and performing voice overs for animated features. After appearing in a supporting role in Judging Amy, playing an independently wealthy landscape designer, Marin starred in the CBS sitcom Rob, with Rob Schneider.
Marin is a frequent collaborator of the director Robert Rodriguez, who has worked with Marin seven times; the last two installments of the Mexico trilogy, the Spy Kids trilogy, From Dusk Till Dawn and Machete. He provided his voice for several Disney animated films, most notably Tito the Chihuahua in Oliver & Company (1988), Banzai the hyena in The Lion King (1994), and Ramone in Cars (2006) and its sequels Cars 2 (2011) and Cars 3 (2017). He also played Pancho in The Cisco Kid (1994), and reprised the Banzai role in the video game Kingdom Hearts II.
Marin has released two best-selling albums in the children's music genre, My Name is Cheech, the School Bus Driver (1992) and My Name is Cheech, The School Bus Driver "Coast to Coast" (1997). Both albums were released bilingually. In July 2007, the book Cheech the School Bus Driver was released, written by Marin, illustrated by Orlando L. Ramirez, and published by HarperCollins.
In 2005, Marin lent his voice to the animated children's series Dora the Explorer. He appeared in the episode "A Crown for King Juan el Bobo", as the Puerto Rican folk hero Juan Bobo.
In late 2006, Marin participated in Simon Cowell's Celebrity Duets, having sung with Peter Frampton, Randy Travis, Clint Black, Aaron Neville, and Al Jarreau. He was the fourth to be eliminated. In that same year, he voiced as Gaspar Gomez in Scarface: The World Is Yours.
Marin had a recurring role in the hit television series Lost, playing David Reyes, Hurley's father.
He was a co-host for WWE Raw on March 1, 2010, with his comedy partner Tommy Chong, in Oklahoma City.
Marin also sings on the hidden track "Earache My Eye" on Korn's album Follow the Leader.
In 2009, he appeared in the Hallmark Channel movie Expecting a Miracle.
On March 18, 2010, Marin beat journalist Anderson Cooper and actress Aisha Tyler on Celebrity Jeopardy!'s Million Dollar Celebrity Invitational. Cooper admitted he was "crushed" by Marin. Marin also won his semifinal round early May but lost in the May 6–7 final to Michael McKean. He had previously won the first Celebrity Jeopardy! tournament in 1992.
In January 2012, he was one of eight celebrities participating in the Food Network reality series Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off. He was eliminated on the third week of the competition.
Marin is an avid collector of Chicano art. Two national touring exhibitions have featured works from his private collection. Marin started collecting Chicano art in the 1980s. He feels that it's important to "use his celebrity status to call attention to what he saw as an under-appreciated and under-represented style of art."
He is an avid golfer, although he initially disliked the sport until he co-starred in Tin Cup. He also enjoys horse archery, which he practices on a special course that he has built on his private land.
Marin was married in 1975 to Darlene Morley, who co-produced Cheech & Chong's The Corsican Brothers and also played minor roles in earlier Cheech & Chong films under the name Rikki Marin. The couple had one child and divorced in 1984. Marin married artist Patti Heid in 1986; they had two children and have since divorced. Patti is responsible for his interest in Chicano Art. Marin married his longtime girlfriend, Russian pianist Natasha Rubin, on August 8, 2009, in a sunset ceremony at their home.
Marin resides in Malibu, California.Mother Goose Rock 'n' Rhyme (TV) (1990) ...as Carnival Barkera
Great Performances (TV) ...El Cosmico (1 episode, 1991)
Ring of the Musketeers (TV) (1992) ...as Burt Aramis
The Golden Palace (TV) ...Chuy Castillos (24 episodes, 1992–1993)
Tales from the Crypt (TV) ...as Dr. Beneloy (1 episode, 1993)
The Cisco Kid (TV) (1994) ...as Pancho
Married... with Children (3 episodes, 1991–1994) ...as Buck's Voice
Dream On (1994) ...as Waiter (1 episode, 1994)
Santo Bugito (1995) TV Series ...as Lencho the Flea (unknown episodes)
The Courtyard (TV) (1995) ...as Angel Steiner
Latino Laugh Festival (TV) (1996) ...Host
Happily Ever After: Fairytales For Every Child (TV) Character- "Hansel and Gretel"
Tracey Takes On... (1996–1998) ...Carlos (starred in only 2 episodes)
Funny Flubs & Screw-Ups V (TV) (2000) ...Host
The 26th Annual People's Choice Awards (TV) (2000) ...Host
Resurrection Blvd. (TV) (2000)...as Hector Archuletta
South Park (TV) (2000) ...voiced as Carlos Ramirez (voiced in 1 episode "Cherokee Hair Tampons")
Nash Bridges (TV) (2001) ...as Inspector Joe Dominguez (1996–2001)
Tracey Ullman in the Trailer Tales (TV) (2003) ...as Himself
George Lopez (TV) (2003) ...as Lalo (Starred in the episode titled Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Honey)
Judging Amy (2004–2005) ...Ignacio Messina (20 episodes)
Dora the Explorer (2005) ...voiced as King Juan el Bobo ("A Crown for King Juan el Bobo")
Storm Hawks (2007) ...Cyclonian Pilot
Lost (TV) (2007–2009) ...as David Reyes (Hurley's Dad in the episodes Tricia Tanaka Is Dead, There's no Place Like Home and The Lie)
Mind of Mencia (2008) ...as Gay man's father
Grey's Anatomy (2008) ...as Otis (episode "Where the Wild Things Are")
MADtv (2009) ...as Himself
Outnumbered (2009 TV movie)
WWE Raw (TV) (2010) ...as Himself (Guest Host)
Off the Map (TV) (2011) ...as Papa
The Simpsons (2011) ...as Himself (Guest voice)
Lopez Tonight (TV) (2011) ...as Himself, George's celebrity father
Psych (2012) ...as Deacon Jones
Rob (2012)...as Fernando
Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off (2012) ...as Himself (celebrity contestant)
Anger Management (2014) ...as Hector
Jane the Virgin (2015) ...as Edward
Elena of Avalor (2017) ...as Quita Voz (Guest voice)
Animated Storybook: The Lion King (1994) - Banzai
Blazing Dragons (1996) - Sir George, Guido the Pizza Chef
Kingdom Hearts II (2006) - Banzai
Cars (2006) - Ramone
Scarface: The World is Yours (2006) - Gasper Gomez
Cars Mater-National Championship (2007) - Ramone
Cars Race-O-Rama (2009) - Ramone
Kinect Rush: A Disney-Pixar Adventure (2012) - Ramone
Radiator Springs Racers (2012–present) - Ramone
Cheech and Chong (1971)
Big Bambu (1972)
Los Cochinos (1973)
Cheech & Chong's Wedding Album (1974)
Sleeping Beauty (1976)
Up in Smoke (1978)
Let's Make a New Dope Deal (1980)
Get Out Of My Room (1985)
Marin, Cheech; Hassan, John (2017). Cheech Is Not My Real Name…But Don't Call Me Chong!. New York: Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 9781455592340. OCLC 974034992.