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November 22, 2014

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Q+A: Carrot Top celebrates eighth anniversary at Luxor and looks to the future

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Steve Marcus

Luxor headliner comedian Carrot Top arrives for the world premiere of “Runner, Runner” at Planet Hollywood on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013.

Carrot Top

Zany props comic Carrot Top has been the hysterical headliner since 2005 at the Luxor but has never performed the same show twice. Now celebrating his eighth anniversary there this month, he is signed on to extend his residency through 2015 and promises to keep every show different.

Born Scott Thompson in Florida in 1965, he now lives here full time. Carrot Top has appeared in numerous movies and TV shows and is a regular on late-night TV talk shows.

He remembers that his prop comedy began when he was just 20 and stole a Neighborhood Crime Watch sign. The sign worked so well onstage that he kept adding and adding and adding.

Over a free-for-all lunch served by chef Amanda Hogan of Any Thyme Catering, I tried to cut through the nonstop jokes, one-liners and zingers for a Q+A.

You change the show every night based on the mood of the audience?

There’s an element of change that happens every night. I actually start out as a black man and toward the end I’m white. There are changes in the show that happen nightly with props and jokes in general based on current events. That means a shelf life that works for a couple of days, then it’s tossed out because we have a new joke.

You ever figure out how many props you’ve made over eight years?

Oh, man, a lot. I have a whole warehouse full of crap for all the stuff that’s worked over the years. I’ve recycled them by removing items and adding new ones. I make all of them myself.

Where did the first prop come from, and where did that work? Did you think that was going to be your entire future?

No, I didn’t know; it all kind of came about by accident. The first prop I ever did onstage wasn’t one that I made. It was a Neighborhood Crime Watch sign that they have all over the neighborhood. So I went and stole it and when I went onstage, I said, “Hey, how good is our Crime Watch if they’re not even watching our signs? Took me an hour and a half to unbolt the sign in complete daylight, and no one cared.” I thought it was a good little clever prop that I didn’t make.

When I did that, I remembered the idea that people like the visual aspect of seeing something instead of just talking about it. Most comics just talk. That first sign was back in 1985, and I’ve been doing it ever since. I’m officially in. I started coming up with ideas that were visual props. I lived in Florida, and that’s where I started doing comedy. There’s a lot of old people, so I had a helmet that had a spring and an old ladies head on top of it. It was for old people to drive so that they’re heads would go above the seat and you could see them driving. People loved it!

We’ve heard about comics being accused of stealing jokes from other comics, but nobody has copied you in doing props?

It’s very interesting. I’ve not had a Carrot Top rip-off yet. I never built it, but I used to always put my hair in pigtails and say, Hey, look, it’s the Wendy’s girl. It’s the stupidest joke I ever did but, it’s my go to. I haven’t paid for a frosty in 20 years.

I think one of my favorite props that I built that I was pretty proud of was, remember the phone? The paper cups and string phone that kids would use? I made an updated version one for kids today, and it had a second cup for call waiting and a third cup for “hold up a second I have another call; hello” for conference calling. It was so clever.

'CSI: The Experience' 2nd Anniversary w/Carrot Top, Holly Madison

Carrot Top and Holly Madison at Launch slideshow »

When you started in 1985, the world of digital-technology computers hadn’t even been invented.

No, that’s why that cup phone thing was brilliant. I’ve been able to tech up my act through the years. It’s really funny how it’s evolved. It started as standup, then I added a strobe light, then a fog machine, then video. The whole show now is very intertwined and interactive, so it’s almost a very technical show, not just standup. If one of my guys is sick or out, I’m screwed in a sense because it’s all become a high level of production now.

You’ve been there eight years, longer than you first thought, and it’s gone faster than you thought it would. It’s a dream for a comedian to find a steady residency on the Strip. How much longer do you stay there? Do you still go out on the road?

We have some road trips coming up this December. The theater is actually shutting down for some kind of face-lift or Botox or something. So for four weeks, we’re going to go do some shows in Canada and Mississippi. My contract is now through 2015, a total of 10 years. After that, we’ll reassess and see what to do. I would love to stay in Vegas, for sure. Vegas has been a dream to do a show and be able to come home every night.

You expend a huge amount of frenetic energy onstage, and it looks like by the end of it, you’re about physically wiped out.

I’m a young whippersnapper, I'm ready to do another one. I work out every day in the gym. Then I run all over the stage. You do get worn out more mentally than physically. It’s only 90 minutes but you’re still exhausted. It’s a solo act, no place to hide onstage.

I have a lot of friends in bands, so I’m kind of like the lead vocal or the drummer. You can’t take a break when you’re in front. I chose it that way, though. There’s a lot of stuff in the show with the added production, so I’m starting to bring other guys onstage to do stupid bits. Shania Twain came to see my show, so I went to see hers, and now, as a tribute to her, I have a guy dressed as a horse, and I sing to him.

So the show always changes and not just because you’ve hit the eighth year? You’re not changing it just to go onto the 10th year? It just keeps changing?

It just evolves really. I think because I’m here every night, it’s a lot easier for me to kind of change as it goes as opposed to when Chris Rock does a tour and special for HBO, he has to change the entire thing because we’ve watched the special. Which is weird because in music you want to know the song, but in comedy you don’t.

Carrot Top: The Taming of the Do

Comedian Scott Launch slideshow »

Where do you find your inspiration from to be funny? You read newspapers, watch the morning news, and then …

It’s windy as crap out there today, so I’ll probably do a whole joke about that tonight. I’ll videotape me being blown to crap, and I’ll say, “Hey, beautiful day, check it out.” I’ll have seven wind blowers on me. Except real tragedies, you can make a joke out of everything that happens in life. Politics are so easy. Sports, politics and social observational media stuff are great.

This is a silly question, but one of the things that intrigues me is people texting not in the English language, but they’re speaking initials.

I know! I don’t understand half of what my nephew texts me. I have no idea. It’s all broken into symbols and numbers. I didn’t know GG meant “gotta go.” I was like what’s GG? I still write out gotta go.

Did you always know you wanted to be a comic?

No, I had no idea. It was weird, I came from a family that was the farthest from entertainment. My dad was a rocket scientist at NASA, and my mom was a stripper … no, mom was just mom. I was always the class clown in high school, but I never was into telling jokes. I’d tell old jokes that my dad would tell me. My hair was always red, but it got long when I was in college.

I surfed a lot, and the girl I was dating at the time was like, “I think you should grow your hair long,” so I grew it long, and it stayed. That’s when I came up with Carrot Top. There’s no secret to its styling. It’s just my whole little invention; it’s just wake and shake. Good to go. I’m just happy to have it. I couldn’t do a bald Carrot Top or a receding Carrot Top.

Carrot Top's Fifth Anniversary at the Luxor

Carrot Top, with Excalibur headliners Thunder From Down Under, celebrates his fifth anniversary at the Luxor on Dec. 20, 2010. Launch slideshow »

They say a lot of comics create humor because of their own internal pain. True for you?

Some comics I think are miserable. Many admit that they start out to become a comic because there’s a little pain involved with being picked on. I was a little skinny kid with red hair, so I was the outcast. So my way of fitting in was to be funny and tell jokes. I don’t think I’ve ever felt real pain behind it, though.

How rare, how unique is it to have an eight-year residency in Las Vegas?

It’s really rare! In fact, I didn’t really think about it until it happened. One of those things where every year would go by and you just say it was another year. It didn’t really dawn on me until people would say to me that’s an amazing feat. I didn’t realize in a town like this that’s an amazing deal. That’s another reason I change the show a lot. You get a lot of return visitors.

Every night I ask the crowd, “How many people are seeing the show for the first time?” A lot of people have seen the show, so you have to reinvent yourself, keep the show fresh, keep the jokes fresh. Every night is like the first time you do you it; that’s how it has to be.

I love living and working in Las Vegas, I love everything about this city — to do a show and be home at night, it’s a dream. The people in Vegas have always been so nice. You can go hiking, you can go an hour away and be in L.A. if you have to do something for work. The summers can get a little hot, but it’s over before you know it.

Final question: Many comics today rely on four-letter words and dirty jokes to stay on top, but you don’t resort to that, which makes you pretty unique.

It’s not a G-rated show by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s not filthy, no. I have a lot of people who come to the show who are a very nice eclectic group, mixture of ages, so I keep it fun. You have to give props to the props. By themselves, they aren’t funny, so I have to deliver. … I make the props, so I do cherish them.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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