He is the undisputed Las Vegas king of comedy. Every year thousands of folks from around the world flock to Sin City to see the man they call Carrot Top. And they leave, as I did recently, laughing hysterically. The man is a dynamo of hilarity.
“Top” (real name Scott Thompson) spoke with The Washington Times about how majoring in marketing led a young comic to become a trusted comedy brand, his comedy heroes and the possibility of a “prop-free” Carrot Top show.
Question: Where did the name Carrot Top come from?
Answer: I created it myself. I was in college doing stand-up at open-mic nights. I had gone up under my real name, Scott Thompson, but there was another Scott Thompson [from “Kids in the Hall”] doing comedy. I needed a different name.
No one really called me Carrot Top, but I knew it was a moniker used to describe redheads. I remember thinking I needed to have a logo like The Rolling Stones or The Grateful Dead. I wanted a name that I could have a logo for. I drew this little stick figure carrot holding a microphone. It was a well-thought-out name, a logo and an image.
When I went to the club that night, I said, “Introduce me as Carrot Top.” The MC was like, “OK.” The name just kind of stuck.
Then when I started doing the comedy clubs, this woman said, “You’re going as Carrot Top? I kind of like that. You have your own thing.” That was Colleen McGarr, who became a big-time booking agent — booked everyone from Bill Hicks to [Jerry] Seinfeld. She got behind me, and I kept going with it.
Q: You were creating a brand long before “brand” was a buzzword.
A: Exactly. In college I was getting a degree in marketing. I remember always thinking visually. I remember telling my teacher that I thought students paid more attention when he was holding up an item. When I started doing comedy, I started doing visuals. I thought the crowd would pay attention when I’m telling the joke if I was holding up the joke as well.
Q: What was your very first prop?
A: My very first prop came from me living in Florida. There were a lot of old people, so I made this hat. On top of the hat was a mannequin head on a spring with old lady’s hair on it. I said it was for old people so you could see them when they drove. It killed, because everybody had seen old people driving [but] you couldn’t see their heads.
After that I made a high heel for women that came with little training wheels. The cowboy boot with the kickstand so you don’t fall down when you’re drunk. I call them “inventions” instead of props. Because when people think of props they think of puns, and I try to be clever and stay away from puns.
Q: Who were your comedy heroes?
A: George Carlin was a big influence — watching his specials and “The Tonight Show.” Jonathan Winters. Robin Williams. And, believe it or not, a big influence for me was Gallagher. His stuff was quite clever if you actually go back and break it down. He got [expletive] for [smashing] the watermelon, but if you take the watermelon out of his act, there was some brilliant stuff. I saw him live once when I was a kid and thought it was so cool that you could tell jokes for a living.
Q: Is being in Vegas the best gig ever?
A: I really appreciate having a show now more than I ever did. There was a time I thought, “Of course I have a show. I’m Carrot Top. I’m going to always have a show.” I realized how many people want to have a show in Vegas. People are lined up waiting for a room. I’ve got it pretty good.
Q: How many props do you have at this point? And where do you keep them?
A: On stage I work out of like eight trunks. At the warehouse across the street from the Luxor I’ve got thousands.
Q: Ever think about opening a museum?
A: Yeah, no. David Copperfield has a museum, and you walk through on an actual tour. It’s pretty awesome. He has all this Houdini stuff. Maybe one day we’ll have a Carrot Top Museum. [laughs]
Q: Are you still planning on doing a prop-free show?
A: With the live show I do now, I go for about 35 minutes in the middle of the show where I don’t touch a prop. There’s lots of stand-up in the show. I do want to put together a prop-free show. That would be awesome.
Q: What’s the biggest misconception people have about you?
A: That I’m actually some strange, weird guy. Every time I read things on the Internet about me, they say “That guy is pretty strange.” I’m actually just the opposite. I’m a pretty mellow, easygoing, normal guy. I try to stay off the Internet. Stuff they put up there is ridiculous.
Q: What else are you working on?
A: I just did a small part in a Melissa McCarthy movie called “Michelle Darnell.” Pretty funny. I play a centaur. That was fun.
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