EIGHT YEARS ON TOP AT THE LUXOR!
INTERVIEW - MARLA SANTOS
PHOTOGRAPHY - DENISE TRUSCELLO
The big, flaming red curls crowning his head are the signature trademark of this hilarious comedian, making him instantaneously recognizable. Who else could wear such a hairstyle and pull it off? Men and women alike flock to his show in Las Vegas because the laughter he creates in them is so therapeutic, that they return time and time again. Celebrating eight years of sold-out crowds at the Luxor Hotel and Casino, Carrot Top has become a Vegas icon.
Born Scott Thompson in Cocoa Beach, Florida – his father, Larry Thompson, was a rocket scientist for NASA, who worked on the Gemini and Apollo missions. Scott’s journey in life after college veered so far off the mainstream path, that most parents would be holding their head in their hands, saying: “Really? Really?!” But being true to himself, Scott decided to stick to small comedy gigs, toting around trunks of silly props and inventions. After appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in 1992, his stage act became bigger and more outrageous, using strobe lights, laser beams, fog machines and rock ‘n roll music. He became an opening act at rock concerts, and went from working small clubs in the late ‘80s to becoming the highest grossing touring comedian in America by the late ‘90s. Scott claims: “I went from two trunks and a strobe light to an 18-wheeler and 35 trunks full of props—from a Yugo to a tour bus for the crew and myself. I actually had to hire people to carry my props. It got pretty crazy, pretty fast.”
Carrot Top’s show at the Luxor is part stand-up and part rock concert. It is brilliant, full of energy, and will make you laugh until you think you’ll burst. Inside this highly-wired comedian is an artist who is a much more mellow and down-to-earth person than the one we see on stage, and one who is deeply passionate about giving back to the community of Las Vegas. On this celebratory occasion of continued success on the Vegas Strip, we find a man who is truly grateful for his upbringing, his career, his friends, and the path that he veered onto, to become known as Carrot Top.
STRIPLV: Congratulations! Eight years of packing them in at the Luxor!
CARROT TOP: Holy-Moly! Isn’t that crazy?! For some reason, I feel like it just started, and it’s gone by so fast.
STRIPLV: You have said: “Comics don’t like to see other comics do well.” Why do you think that is?
CARROT TOP: I don’t think it’s just comics, I think that can be true across the board in any profession. The old saying is that “People love success, they just don’t like successful people.” With comics, it’s them poking fun, and loving to dig on other comics. With any success, you get a lot of feedback. When I first started, no one would make fun of me, because no one knew who I was. But when I got a little bit of success, people started making jokes about me. Justin Bieber deserves to get ridiculed when he does the stuff he does. Did you see the picture of him being carried up the steps of the Great Wall of China on his bodyguard’s back? It’s just silly. Now, he should get back to reality.
STRIPLV: Is there another comic that you call your true friend?
CARROT TOP: I have a lot of comics that are true friends. I love hanging out with comics. We’re such a fraternity, and I can’t think of one comic that doesn’t love sitting around having a cup of coffee with another comic. Seinfeld has a show that’s called “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee”. Every week, it’s a different comic and a different car that represents the comic’s personality. They go get coffee and chat for half an hour. It’s really funny.
STRIPLV: You and Criss Angel seem to have a good friendship. Is it real or just for publicity?
CARROT TOP: No, no, it’s for real! I see him every night when we pull in to work. He’s a very nice man, and he put me in his TV shows and we’ve done collaborative stuff together.
STRIPLV: There’s a saying that goes: “If you can count on one hand, five really good friends in a lifetime, then you are very lucky.” Are your five mostly entertainers or just regular people?
CARROT TOP: I think that it’s probably not all five in show business. They’d be people that I’ve grown up with that are good friends. My assistant and crew have been with me for almost 25 years.
STRIPLV: The same people?
CARROT TOP: Yes. They are probably the closest people around me.
STRIPLV: Wow, that really says a lot about you!
CARROT TOP: Yes, it’s really rare to have that, I know. We have such a close family and when we go into work every night, it’s like my family, and it’s great!
STRIPLV: Your father was a rocket scientist for NASA. What do you remember about your childhood, family dinners, and your parents’ expectations of you?
CARROT TOP: I remember growing up in a family that was far from a showbiz family. My dad worked at NASA and he would take us to the rocket launches out at the Cape. I would be dragging my feet, not wanting to go to the launch and watch these stupid rockets go off. I had absolutely no appreciation for what he did until I got older. When I was in college, people would say: “Your dad works at NASA? Holy crap! What’s that like?” I’d tell them that he works with the astronauts and stuff. It never really dawned on me until later in life, when I could really appreciate the fact that my dad had a pretty cool job and was like a rock star, himself. The expectations are high growing up with a father who was a brainiac kind of guy. My brother took his path and went into the Air Force Academy, got a degree in aeronautics, and also had a scholarship for swimming. He was like the perfect pupil. He had the smarts, good looks, scholarship, Air Force Academy… and here I am, wanting to go be a comic. My parents didn’t really understand what that meant. I did want to go to college, and I didn’t want to be a comic until my first year in school. Even then, I was just doing it for fun and to make some money, which wasn’t much for the level I was at. I finished up with a degree in marketing and then I had a couple of gigs come my way, so I took them. I thought that when the gigs ran out, I’d get a job, but they were just enough to pay my bills. I remember a discussion with my father who said: “What are you doing for work?” I told him I was doing comedy shows on the weekends. He asked if that was paying the bills and I told him it was, because I didn’t have that many bills. He didn’t understand, and neither did I, that it was going to evolve into this. I finally ran out of gigs and I got odd jobs, like working in a bread store, and shucking oysters for maybe about a year when I didn’t know what I was going to do. One night, this couple came in for dinner at this oyster bar and told me: “You look so familiar. You look like this comedian we saw in Tampa. It’s so funny you look just like him.” I told them it was me and they asked me what I was doing shucking oysters. They said: “You should be a comedian, you’re so great!” A buddy called and asked if I wanted to do a New Year’s Eve gig at his club in Fort Myers, Florida. I took the job and never turned back.
STRIPLV: What was your plan B? Did you think you’d work for an ad agency?
CARROT TOP: I honestly don’t know, but things just fell into place.
STRIPLV: You obviously have inherited the intelligence from your father, but put it to different use. Do you have a hard time shutting off or calming your brain so you can sleep?
CARROT TOP: Absolutely! That’s the hardest part, because my brain’s going all day while gearing up to do the show. Then after the show, it’s gearing down. When people meet me in person, they tell me that I’m so quiet and not manic and running around. Not really! I watch sports and Letterman and Leno on TV and see if I’m talking about the same topics that they are, and keeping up with the news.
STRIPLV: Where did the humor come from—was it always in the way you looked at things from when you were very young?
CARROT TOP: I guess so. I remember my father was kind of funny with a dry sense of humor. My mother always told me I was the class clown. I never got in trouble, but she said that I was always the one entertaining everybody. I think I was always trying to make people feel good.
STRIPLV: At what age did you let your hair grow and become naturally wild?
CARROT TOP: During college I was dating this girl and she told me that my hair would be cute if it was longer. I grew it long, cut it, and then let it grow again.
STRIPLV: Was there a moment that you knew that your hair would become a trademark?
CARROT TOP: I knew when I made it my logo. I drew a stick figure of me with my hair all curly. I used the name Carrot Top even when my hair was short, because it was red. When I grew it long, I put it in pigtails and said: “Look, I’m the Wendy’s hamburger girl!” It was such a funny joke and it was such a staple that it just kind of became my look and part of my logo. I talk about it in my act and say: “I’m screwed, because I made this image and now I’m stuck, so I have to stay like this for you.” It’s cool.
STRIPLV: It’s so recognizable and a great trademark. Your bio says you were skinny as a child. Was that a big reason you wanted to buff up like you did—just to prove to yourself that you could?
CARROT TOP: I don’t know, just a typical male thing maybe. Every guy
wants to have big arms. If you ask any guy living, walking and breathing, they would say: “Yeah! I’d love to have a nice body.” Every guy wonders: “How far can I go and how big can I get?” I don’t know if it was a psychological thing because I was so skinny, because that’s who I was and how I fit in with everybody. My brother was tall and muscular and I was always “Garrett’s little brother.” I was always the little brother and they would pick me up and I didn’t have a problem with it. I thought it was part of my charm that I was a little skinny guy. I was always athletic, a swimmer, wrestler, and played the necessary sports in school. I’ve been lifting weights since I was sixteen, when I went to the gym every night while I was in high school. If you look at old pictures, I always had a muscular build until about five years ago, when I really just went crazy and said I was going to get big and more muscular. Now I’m back to my normal self. It was just too much to lift that much weight and eat that much food. You become this big guy and it just didn’t fit my personality. I was at an event last night and I must have had 100 people say: “Oh my God, you look so good. You look like you’re back to little Carrot Top.”
STRIPLV: Did you find that you attracted more sexual partners when you were big?
CARROT TOP: I don’t really think it attracted anything. I think it detracted, to tell you the truth. I think it took away from everything, because it was too much. They would see me and then go: “Have you seen Carrot Top? He’s huge!! He’s like a bodybuilder huge!” Personally, for my image, it didn’t fit me. I now run about 5 miles a day and do the lean stuff.
STRIPLV: What would you say to young men who want to do the same thing and pump up that much?
CARROT TOP: It really depends. I have a lot of friends, that if it works for their image, it’s fine.
STRIPLV: It must take a lot of time in the gym.
CARROT TOP: Literally, I would work out 3 hours a day at the gym. It was so time consuming and it was a lifestyle. I would eat four steaks, potatoes and rice and it started consuming my job and my life. It was a phase that lasted two years, but I still like to do some light weights to stay toned.
"I don't want to be big Carrot Top anymore."
STRIPLV: When you moved to Las Vegas, did you question whether you would become addicted to gambling?
CARROT TOP: It never entered my mind. I’ve never been into gambling and I’m very, very lucky, in that regard. On our night off, my girlfriend and I might go to a restaurant and then play a little bit for a while. Literally, about once every two months. I can honestly say, that I’ve never sat down and just gambled.
STRIPLV: So you obviously don’t have an addictive personality?
CARROT TOP: No, not at all. I’ve never had a drug problem or alcohol problem or smoked. I’m pretty boring, actually. I don’t really do anything. I do my show and go home, watch TV and play with my dog.
STRIPLV: But, you are constantly thinking of things.
CARROT TOP: Yeah, constantly creating things. I’m lucky I don’t have an addictive personality, living in this town. In this town, you have to be strong to live in it, for sure.
STRIPLV: Vegas is blessed with people with big hearts, giving to charities. You give a lot of time to charity. Do you just follow your heart?
CARROT TOP: I get requests everyday from people, and you can’t do them all, but there’s not that many that I’ve said no to. I get a lot of letters written to me that are just so heavy you just can’t say no, and you realize how good you’ve got it. It’s not hard at all to help and it takes such little time. It really makes me feel so good! That’s part of what’s so nice about being in this field and this entertainment thing, that you can make a difference. At the end of the day you feel really good. We have these guitars that we started signing. In Vegas, we always get eclectic people coming in to see the show. So I end up with stars and entertainers like the drummer from Queen in my dressing room, and other famous people that stop in and they sign the guitars. At the end of the year, we auction them off for different charities. We just did a pink one for Breast Cancer. I had this whole wall in my dressing room and we got the guitar companies to donate the guitars. Then when these famous people come in, I have them sign them. I’ve never had anyone say “no.” Of course they’re going to sign the guitar for charity. Sometimes people walk in and ask if I play guitar, but I tell them I don’t even know how to strum it. It’s strictly for charity. We get some really neat names on them, without having to do much.
STRIPLV: With all the publicity you get, you seem to keep your private life private. Is that hard to do?
CARROT TOP: My mom always gives me credit that I’ve never had anything bad show up about me. I told her: “Well, I don’t do anything bad!” I’m not in the tabloids or doing anything rotten. I live kind of a private life. I have my close friends and we usually go out and have dinner, and I don’t put myself in situations where there might be trouble.
STRIPLV: Do you do the social media thing?
CARROT TOP: I try to. I’m at that age where I have to force myself to do it.
STRIPLV: What kind of vacations do you find appealing – the ocean, the wilderness, or the big cities?
CARROT TOP: I like it all. It depends on the season. I love going snowboarding and that’s one of my favorite things to do. So in the winter, I hit the mountains. In the summer, I like to go to Frisco and Big Sur. Being a redhead, and living in Florida for a lot of my life, I don’t do the beaches anymore, but I like to surf. I do have a house in Orlando that I go back and forth to. My ideal vacation is just going home and sitting in my house in Orlando.
STRIPLV: What turns you on?
CARROT TOP: Everything turns me on! I love music and that’s my number one thing. I could just live on music and it puts me in such a good mood. I like watching movies, but I don’t have the patience to sit in a theater.
STRIPLV: What turns you off?
CARROT TOP: I don’t like ugly, mean people. It sounds very cliché, but any kind of negativity or rottenness – I just hate that! When I go to a concert and everyone’s having a good time, and then a fight breaks out, I don’t like that. What really turns me off is the news, to tell you the truth! The news is almost unwatchable, because it’s so bad and so depressing. It’s all bad! So I watch my sports and my entertainment shows.
STRIPLV: What’s your favorite curse word?
CARROT TOP: Oh it’s got to be “fuck!” There’s a scene in the new Robert De Niro movie called The Family. It’s really funny. There is a whole scene about that word that is pretty hilarious. I think it’s everyone’s favorite word!
STRIPLV: Is the Carrot Top we see on stage the real you or just a persona that you’re presenting?
CARROT TOP: It’s a little bit of me and a little bit character. It’s me, but a little more energetic and manic on stage than the me that’s mellow.
STRIPLV: What is something that would surprise people to know about you?
CARROT TOP: That I’m a big NASCAR fan.
STRIPLV: Have you ever done those high-speed racing cars out at the Speedway?
CARROT TOP: Yes, I have. It’s really cool! It’s scary, but it’s great. You’re out there going 150 miles per hour, and you’re by yourself, and you can’t do that anywhere else. You can’t do that going down the 15 without getting in trouble or killing someone. Out there, you can just go and be a madman!
STRIPLV: Tell me a crazy story about your fans.
CARROT TOP: I’ve had some crazies, but I’m not a rock star, so I don’t get that kind of crazy stuff. I get a lot of people that get tattoos of me, and I find that kind of interesting. I never thought I’d have one person have a Carrot Top tattoo, let alone like more than 30. I literally have fans that get Carrot Top tattoos on them. I like myself, but I don’t know whether I’d have a tattoo of Carrot Top on me. This one lady comes to my show all the time and I think she has about 6 different ones on her. She has one that’s of my face, and it’s about the size of a hand on the tramp stamp part of her back above her butt. I’ve never slept with this woman, and it’s the most bizarre thing ever! She couldn’t have been sweeter, and she said she loved it. It’s pretty cool and it’s BIG! Not a little tiny tattoo of a little carrot, but it’s like her whole back. That’s pretty crazy!!!
Carrot Top performs at the Luxor 8:30pm Wednesday through Monday.