|Date of Birth
|Place of Birth
Comedians have always used props – from Jonathan Winters to Steve Martin. But before Carrot Top, no comic had ever actually created props, not as puns, but as humorous inventions. Nothing new in show business? It’s all been done before? With a Rube Goldberg genius for gadgets and rock ’n’ roll in-your-face energy, Carrot Top is a comedian unlike any other – ever.
“Nobody can steal my act,” says Carrot Top (a.k.a. Scott Thompson). “I’ve challenged comics to write me a prop and they can’t. Comedians have done plays on words but writing a visual joke is something else. A rubber chicken isn’t enough. I have to write my own material, make my own props, because no one sells what I do – like the paper-cup-and-string-telephone with a third cup for call waiting. I’m happy not only that I have my own style but I’ve been an original from the very start.”
The road to becoming a pop culture reference (from Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery and MAD magazine, to Celery Head, a comedian who plays a guitar with a slice of cheese on “King Of The Hill”) had its early rocky moments. This college graduate son of a NASA scientist didn’t grow up in show business. Even worse, when he began his steady climb upward in 1990, many clubs wouldn’t book him because he didn’t fit into the angst-filled zeitgeist of contemporary stand-up comedy. But then his imaginative hyper-reality became a hit on college campuses. He remains the only person ever named both Entertainer of the Year and Comedian of the Year in the same year (1993) by the National Association of Campus Activities. In 1994, he took home the American Comedy Award for Best Male Stand-Up.
Today, Carrot Top is one of the most popular and successful comedians in America. Each year he stars for an astonishing 15 weeks in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand (the same venue as comedy hero George Carlin), headlines another 100+ concerts across the country, and makes dozens of television appearances. Thanks to becoming a celebrity TV pitchman for 1-800-CALL-ATT, which is featuring his commercials for the third year, he’s a household name (he got the job when he told them, “I love telephones.”). Not bad for a self-deprecating comic who attributes his achievement to “I just try to be silly.” Carrot Top was born in Cocoa Beach, Florida where his father worked at nearby Cape Canaveral teaching moon-bound astronauts how to drive the lunar module. “My dad is very funny, with a dry sense of humor. I’d remember his jokes and tell them to my friends. I was always the class clown, but I never got in trouble. I wanted to make people laugh, not be a troublemaker.”
Carrot Top thought about becoming an astronaut (his brother became a fighter pilot) but more surfing than studying led to Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton (“the Harvard of Florida,” he jokes). His freshman year he went to a club and saw live stand-up comedy for the first time. A couple of months later, the campus bulletin board announced an open mic night. “I wasn’t going to do it but my roommate said I should. He said, ‘You’re funny.’ I was scared and did some old jokes but people liked it.” The next semester he went again, this time after writing his own jokes, focusing on the school – which prompted his first prop.
“The street in the center of town was Butts Road. I stole the sign and told the audience, ‘This must be where the assholes live.’ I also had a Neighborhood Crime Watch sign – ‘It takes 20 seconds to break into a house but it took me an hour to unbolt this sign.” Later, at an amateur night, the manager told him the sign bit was hysterical but jokes about the school weren’t going to work for the regular audience. “So I went home and thought up more visual jokes, coming up with props like high heels with training wheels for young girls.”
After getting his degree in marketing, Carrot Top worked as a courier for a bank while honing his act. But after his first full year as a comic (“I used the name ‘Carrot Top’ because it was the only thing people used to call me that you can say on TV”), he quit out of frustration attempting to break into clubs. His car was finally repossessed and he took jobs delivering bread, cleaning office buildings, and even shucking oysters. A year later he ran into a club owner who said, “What do you mean you’re not doing comedy?” He offered Carrot Top his club’s New Years Eve gig in 1987. “I forgot just how much fun this is and that I could do it,” says Carrot Top.
In 1990, he had his first booking outside Florida. That North Carolina show led to a club owner/talent manager to set him up nearly every weekend at clubs across the country. His first TV appearance was on “Comic Strip Live”. “That made me feel legit – I can come to California and do this?” In 1992, he did his first turn on “The Tonight Show”…and there have been more than two dozen since. Carrot Top was also doing colleges and soon he was the top comedian on campus. Who else would have Metallica singing Britney Spears? Or the B-52s as Metallica? Or morph from Michael Jackson to Bono to Steven Tyler? When industry people would ask if he was going to drag around a trunk full of props the rest of his life, he’d answer, “Would you ask a rock band that? These are my guitars and amps. My props are my instruments. But still no one was saying I’d be around 15 years later.”
Like only music stars and the rarest of others, Carrot Top has sold out L.A.’s Universal Amphitheatre. The rock ‘n’ roll analogy proved even truer when he hit Vegas. No comedian has ever presented a live show like his. A spectacle worthy of the Rolling Stones (his favorite band), his concert is filled with lights, lasers, loud music, fog machines and flame cannons. “I went from two trunks and a strobe light to an 18-wheeler and 35 trunks…from a Yugo to a tour bus for the crew and myself. Now I have people who carry my props.” At the show’s end, he doesn’t just say “See ya later,” but rather launches into a rock parody of the likes of KISS and Mick Jagger.
Perhaps, surprisingly, Carrot Top says his adult audience is actually larger than his teen following. “They just want to laugh and have a good time. It’s all fun and innocent, and hopefully clever too, without being offensive.” Given that his prop gags are ripped right from the headlines, there is no lack of edginess or irreverence however. With no topic off limits, inspired by everyday life, but adding a funny twist, he pulls from his trunk a Dr. Kevorkian bath toy which consists of a rubber duck attached to an electrical cord, a Whitney Houston microphone-with-bong, and a Dick Cheney “Operation” game.
Carrot Top is the weird kid in school who would do anything for a laugh and never grew up. Perhaps one reason for his success is that his fans enjoy watching someone with the courage to just be his off-the-wall, offbeat self. From his outrageous red hair (“Some people even think I wear a wig. Do they think I went into a salon one day and said, “Can you please screw this up really bad?”) to his “it’s-boring-if-it-matches” clothes (whether faded jeans and t-shirt or full-length skirt and feather boa). Witness the photographs in 2001’s Carrot Top, a performance art/graphics collage book by noted iconoclastic iconographer Ryan McGinness. Carrot Top’s own book, Junk In The Trunk: Some Assembly Required (Simon and Schuster, 1996), was a retrospective of Carrot Top inventions. Witness too his letting his audience in on the behind-the-scenes when a bit doesn’t work – “Alright that sucked. It’s out of the show tomorrow night.”
But what audiences have seen on hundreds of TV programs – from “Regis and…”, “Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher”, Comedy Central’s “Strip Mall”, “Carrot Top’s A.M. Mayhem” on the Cartoon Network, ESPN commercials, and the American Movie Classics presentation of Three Stooges shorts, as well as the movies Chairman Of The Board, Dennis The Menace Strikes Again, and others – is only the manic part of Carrot Top.
“I’m always with people when I’m on the road so I’m pretty quiet when I’m not Carrot Top,” he admits. “I stay to myself, go to the gym, watch sports, surf and jet-ski or work at home (he lives in both Los Angeles and Orlando). I like what I do. I like to make people feel good about themselves so I tell jokes in public.” Two of his favorite comedians are Robin Williams and Steve Martin, along with Carlin and Winters. Williams first came to public attention playing a space alien and Martin by wearing a fake-arrow-through-his-head. That both have since achieved the heights of acclaim offers him role models for his own future.
“Everyone has the gift of laughter inside of them. All the world is a prop,” he has said. In the end, Carrot Top is his ultimate invention – his ultimate prop.