Carrot Top Talks Adele, Bob Saget, Louie Anderson & 16 Years in Vegas
Scott “Carrot Top” Thompson has been making audiences around the world laugh for more than three decades. Since 2005, fans have flocked to his Las Vegas headlining residency at Luxor Hotel and Casino to catch comedy’s King of Props induce sidesplitting laughter with his current take on pop culture, music, and headlines of the day in a continually evolving show.
In this insightful and funny sit-down interview with Carrot Top, the veteran comedian gets candid about his upbringing, the reasons he doesn’t ever want marriage or kids, his long time, mega successful Las Vegas residency, his thoughts on Adele’s Las Vegas residency, his close friendship with the late Louie Anderson, the late Bob Saget, and his aversion to using alcohol or drugs as a conduit for creativity.
Allison Kugel: You were born Scott Thompson. How did you get the name “Carrot Top?” Who gave you the name?
Carrot Top: Unfortunately, I had something to do with that. It’s a blessing and a curse. Why I did it? I don’t know. I thought the name Scott Thompson was kind of boring. Well, not kind of, it is. Being a stage performer, I always thought I should have something fun. Queen Latifah was taken, and so I thought, “Gosh, I need something better.” I went up to the stage one night and said, “Bring me up as Carrot Top.” They said, “Carrot Top? Are you sure?” I said, “Yes, I’m pretty sure.” And that was it. I was “Carrot Top” forever.
Allison Kugel: What are the three pivotal events in your life that shaped the human being you are today?
Carrot Top: One, of course, is having become a comic, and there was a lot of luck in a sense. I was a kid when I wanted to do comedy and it was like, “How do you become a comedian?” There are no comedy schools. Clown school maybe, but there was no stand-up comedy school. I would really honestly stand in the mirror and just pretend and tell jokes, and then I had this idea, because I kept listening to this comedy club that was down in West Palm Beach, Florida, every day, they had a radio thing where they announced that you could come to their open mic nights. I went down there one night and watched and got the urge the following week to get involved and do it. I put together what I thought was an act, and I showed up. The woman said, “You were so funny, but the stuff you’re doing is all about [your] college.” She said, “Everyone that comes to this club is not going to be in college. They are going to have jobs, and there might be 40-year-olds, there might be 60 year olds. It’s going to be a collection of different age groups and occupations, so your stuff has to be a little bit more general.” I went back to the drawing board and that’s where all these props kind of came into play. I started thinking of generalized props that kind of got me into doing what I do. That’s a pivotal thing as far as trying to find that personality of who I was going to be on stage.
Allison Kugel: Interesting how that evolved.
Carrot Top: I came from an interesting life. My dad worked at the space center. It wasn’t a family of entertainment driven people. I’m definitely the oddball, black sheep of the family. My brother went to the Air Force Academy and became an F16 fighter jet pilot. My dad worked at NASA and built spaceships and trained astronauts, and I’m gluing kickstands onto cowboy boots. It just didn’t make any sense.
Allison Kugel: What was that conversation like, when you told your dad, “Listen, I’m not following in your footsteps. I’m going to go into comedy.”
Carrot Top: It was a very awkward conversation. I’m sure everyone has had it once before with their parents. Because it was so different, I wasn’t like, “Hey I’m going to go into some part of engineering.” It was, “I’m going to be a stand-up comedian.” He had no idea what the heck that meant. I had gone off to college and I bought this little truck, and my dad says, “How did you pay for that truck?” I said, “Well I’m in school and have been doing these odd jobs.” He said, “Well, that’s good.” I had two jobs. I was delivering bread and I was a currier driving across the country dropping off credit reports to banks. That is when I listened to the radio every day. I listened to that comedy thing on the radio every day. They had these open mic nights that I would get involved in and you could win top prizes like twenty dollars… or a kazoo.
Allison Kugel: (Laugh)
Carrot Top: I must have won like 30 of those things. I would go places and say, “Can I sell this kazoo? I need gas money?” I went home one time and my dad said, “Hey, how are things going?” I said, “Good. I’m paying for my truck. I don’t have a lot of extra cash, but I have a little bit of extra cash. I’ve been doing stand-up comedy things and I get twenty dollars every time I win, so it’s like twenty dollars a week that I usually can count on, because I usually win this [comedy] event.” He was like, “Wait, stop. Comedy? Stand-up comedy? What are you doing? Are you setting up a comedy show?” I said, “No, I’m in the show. I’m actually the comic.” He said, “But you’re not funny.” And I said, “I know. It’s the weirdest thing.” My dad eventually came and saw what I did, and he had no idea. He said, “What part of you did I miss?” I’m thinking, “A big chunk dad. A big chunk.”
Allison Kugel: (Laugh) Are you an introvert in real life, or is it what you see on stage is what you get?
Carrot Top: No, I’m very shy and inverted. Believe it or not, I’m very shy. People every day would say, “You’re so soft spoken and shy. Then you go on stage and you’re kind of crazy.” I’m very private. I’m not that kind of a weird introvert sitting in a corner by himself, but I usually go out to lunch by myself.
Allison Kugel: I do that too.
Carrot Top: I converse with people there, and I’m like Norm from Cheers. I know everyone at the bar. As soon as I walk in, it’s not like I’m this lonely guy sitting there. Sometimes people join me. Sometimes they don’t. I’m definitely a loner. I come home after the show and I’m a loner. I just watch TV by myself, write jokes, think of jokes, come up with ideas, and then I go to the show, do the show, and come back home. It’s like Groundhogs Day.
Allison Kugel: You’ve been doing your residency at The Luxor for sixteen years now. What is it about Las Vegas that you love?
Carrot Top: It came around by accident, believe it or not. I used to do a couple of weeks at a time at the MGM Grand, seventeen years ago. It was like a mini residence. I would go there for two weeks, and then I would go on the road and do shows. Then I would come back and do two weeks and then go back out on the road again. They had brought to my attention that David Copperfield wanted to take over that show room and make me disappear, and so I was thinking, Okay, I guess I’ll go back on the road.” Then my manager says, “There is a room open at the Luxor right across the street.” We walked over one night and looked at it. I was then told, “This will be full time. You’ll be here every night.” I wasn’t ready to be a resident headliner. I was reluctant. I said, “Let’s do a year and see how it goes.” It was horrible for that first year. I was living in the hotel. It was just not a good time. Things weren’t working. Shows were tough and I was losing my mind, and thinking I have to get out of this gig. Then one day it was really weird, I just started having fun and it started to click. It was kind of cool because I wasn’t having to travel. I agreed to do another two years, making it a three-year deal, and at that point we really got into a groove. It wouldn’t make any sense for me not to be in Vegas. Then I agreed to a five-year deal.” Then it became a ten-year deal, and now it’s been sixteen years and counting. You’re in one place and people come to you, as opposed to you going to them. I’ve gotten used to the room. We just did this brand-new bit about Adele. I could go on stage and knock it out and not have to be on the road traveling with it. Then I can come home and hang out with my dog, and I’m in bed by 11pm watching TV.
Allison Kugel: What are your thoughts on the Adele residency debacle? Do you think it really had to do with COVID? Do you think it had to with some of the technical things that she wanted for the show? What goes into putting together a Las Vegas residency of that magnitude, that maybe people don’t understand?
Carrot Top: I think all three of those things are relevant and valid points. Putting on a show, even my little show, it takes a lot, and also, I’ve been lucky because I’ve been doing mine for sixteen years, so we kind of got it down. We know what we are doing. We have production. We have lights, smoke, and fog, but it’s a lot of work to put on a production, especially one of that magnitude and with her name, the room. There’s a lot of pressure to put on a nice show. I really don’t know what happened because they haven’t given anybody any answers. They kind of said it’s something about COVID and she came out and said she wasn’t ready. That’s the joke of my show. I make fun of that. I re-show the clip when she says, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t ready.” And I said, “Ready? Who the hell is ready? I haven’t been ready in thirty-six years. We do this every night not ready. There is no such thing.”
Allison Kugel: (Laugh) Exactly. I wasn’t ready today to talk to you. Who’s ready?
Carrot Top: Right. That’s what life’s about. Don’t book a show bitch. That’s what I do in my show, you know, and then I do three Adele songs that aren’t Adele songs. They are Lionel Richie singing Hello, and it’s kind of funny. That’s my take on it. But if it was COVID related, then you probably should stick to that, you know? Just say, “Half of our crew has COVID, and we couldn’t rehearse, so we weren’t ready in that regard.” That would have been better than saying, “I wasn’t ready.” I’m surprised her people didn’t say to her, “Don’t say we’re not ready.”
Allison Kugel: Seriously. And you make a good point. In life you are never going to be 100% ready for anything.
Carrot Top: Like, look at my hair. My hair is not ready.
Allison Kugel: Yeah, I wasn’t going to say anything (laugh)…
Allison Kugel: Are you one of those people who is going to eventually retire and have a retirement, or are you going to die on stage?
Carrot Top: I might die during this interview.
Allison Kugel: Please don’t.
Carrot Top: It would be good for you. But seriously, I haven’t figured it out. I never think about that. The older I get, the better I feel and the more I feel like I know what I’m doing. I’ve never been in more of a comfort zone than I am now in my career. I used to get very nervous, just overly nervous about the whole show, and worried about if one joke didn’t get a laugh or one thing didn’t go right, I would lose my mind. Now it’s loose, it’s free, and it’s taken years to get to that. That is where I’m at now, and I don’t ever foresee not doing this. I can’t imagine what I would do. So, I don’t understand. Retire from what? I think when most people do retire, they are over. I’ve never seen anyone that has retired who has gone on and done something amazing. They kind of just get old, retire, and get boring. They just disappear.
Allison Kugel: The concept of retirement started with the Industrial Revolution where you put in your 40 years to get job security and a pension, benefits and all that, and then you were able to go and actually live your life. But if you are doing your life’s work, then it’s fluid, right?
Carrot Top: True. I kind of felt that way during COVID when it first happened. Halfway through that year, I was starting to lose my mind. When I’m not in Vegas, I live in Florida in a lovely house on the lake, and it’s beautiful. But I’m on my boat and we are barbequing, and it’s fun, and then a month later I’d say, “What’s going on tomorrow?” Oh, more boating and more barbequing. No! I need to go be funny. I can crack up my friends on the boat, but it wasn’t the same. I was missing that element of being on stage and doing the show.
Allison Kugel: Yes, that sucks. I can see that. You strike me as a Peter Pan kind of a guy, kind of like you live life as if you are forever thirty years old. Do you feel like that?
Carrot Top: Yes. I very much need to grow up. My friends would tell me that, but I’m lucky in that regard, because I am a child. I consider myself a young child. What I do for a living is one thing, but I like being youthful. I like hanging out with young people, but I have a lot of structure in my life. A lot of entertainers and comics are reckless, like rock stars. I’m very regimented. I never go out. I don’t think I’ve been to a club or a party in twenty years. After this I will take my dog to lunch and I’ll go to the gym, and I’ll go to the show.
Allison Kugel: Do you ever want to get married or have kids?
Carrot Top: I don’t think so. It’s hard enough just taking care of me. I can’t imagine taking care of a wife and kids. I’m enough.
Allison Kugel: The late Bob Saget said such beautiful things about you and your career before his passing. Did you just know him in passing, or were you friends?
Carrot Top: I knew him in a very small capacity, which was wild that he was so friendly towards me. I knew he was a nice man. He knew a lot of my friends, more so than me. But every time my friends would bring my name up to him, they would always say, “Bob loves you, just so you know.” It’s kind of a thing with comics. You want a lot of comics to like you and sometimes they don’t like other comics. Whether it’s a jealous thing or they just don’t think you’re funny. Bob was always one of those guys that really loved and respected me, and I know this, again, through second and third parties. I think the one time we actually spoke at an event he said, “Oh man, you were funny! I said, “You’re funny.” And he said, “No really, you were great.” But we didn’t know each other that well. Then when he passed, and I got all these people sending me clips of him with his nice words about me it was very sweet. I loved that everything I read about Bob, even after his passing, was about what a good guy he was. I hope when I die that is what people say about me. “Scott, you know, God he was such a nice guy.” That’s the reason you get into this business. I think back about the very first time I wanted to be a comedian; it was because I wanted people to like me. I wanted people to laugh and say, “You’re fun to hang out with. You’re funny.” We’re all comics in the same group. We’re all trying to make people laugh and heal. All of us, as successful comics, should be overly happy and nice to people. They’ve been successful at a job that is so hard to get successful in.
Allison Kugel: You mentioned healing people with laughter. Do you think there is a spiritual aspect to what you do as a comedian?
Carrot Top: Absolutely. First of all, I’m very spiritual and I think that there is no way there can’t be a correlation between smiling, laughing, feeling good, and healing. That is why they send clowns into children’s hospitals, and even dogs. They bring in things to make the kids that are sick smile. These kids are laughing, and they are not thinking about their cancer. I have had thousands and thousands of encounters and letters in my career that would shock you. Handwritten letters from families, from people of all ages that have written me letters that say, “You have no idea how you have helped my father live through his last days. We watched your movie. He was so depressed. For his last trip he wanted to go see you in Las Vegas. He was sick, and they got him on a plane to come and see you.” It’s almost a weight on your back. You have this [responsibility] and you have to keep that in mind. Like every time you go on stage, you think to yourself that there is someone out there that needs you, literally.
Allison Kugel: Was there ever a time when people’s criticism of your comedy got to you? And are you a self-critical person, or do you let yourself off the hook pretty easily?
Carrot Top: Mostly, my whole career, it hurt my feelings until recently. It’s human nature that you want everyone to love you, and it’s kind of like a cliché, but you can’t please everybody, and not everybody is going to love you dude. They’re just not. There are going to be some people out there that are going to say, “Carrot Top? Nope, not good. Not a fan.” The other day I saw the Rolling Stones show. It was unreal, and my friend said, “Ah really? You couldn’t pay me to go to that.” I’m thinking, “What?!” It is what it is. People have always, from day one since I got into this business, they always made fun of me, I think just the red hair, the freckles, the name, the props, just everything. It was a whole smorgasbord of just not liking me. A lot of it was comics that were just jealous because I had gotten some success. I was on The Tonight Show, I was on Live! With Regis & Kelly, I did a movie, so they were kind of like, “What the heck? I don’t get it.”
Allison Kugel: Because it wasn’t cerebral humor, like a Jerry Seinfeld where you’re telling stories and making observations…
Carrot Top: Right. It was kind of low brow comedy, which is funny, because when I make these props, they are kind of clever. I’ve had challenges with comics before, where I’ve said, “You get a week to come up with a clever prop.” It would hurt me, hurt me, and hurt me, and one day a bell just went off and I just thought, “consider the source.” When I would go to school and get picked on, I would come home all upset. My mom would ask, “What’s wrong?” I said, “They picked on me at school.” She would ask who it was and what the circumstances where and she would say, “Consider the source. He’s picking on you because he’s not happy with himself and because you’re skinny and he is not.” I now use that philosophy in my business world. I would go to the clubs and all the comics loved my act and respected it. George Carlin came over and said he liked my act. Chris Rock came over, Jay Leno, Bill Maher. All the comics that have made it and are successful are fans of mine. I would see Garry Shandling and he would say, “You have some funny stuff.” Then I would go to the club and there would be some guy from Oklahoma doing two minutes in a set that would sit there and talk behind my back.
Allison Kugel: Do you ever pray, and if so, who or what do you pray to?
Carrot Top: I am a big prayer. A lot of times I pray for general things like my family, my health, my career. In Florida I would go on this run and when I run there’s a big, huge church I run to. It’s the halfway point. It’s a beautiful big church and I always do a little prayer. I pray for my God daughter, my family, my health, my mom’s health, my dog’s health. Pretty much just kind of like my friends and my family and sometimes even greater things like with COVID. I would say, “Can you make this all go back to normal life?” Then sometimes, more specifically, my friend Louie Anderson just passed away. Louie Anderson was like my brother. We had a very close relationship, and [his death] came very suddenly. I went to the hospital, and I was holding his hand the last day he was there, and it was rough.
Allison Kugel: Did you ever talk to him about his health, or taking better care of himself?
Carrot Top: Back in the day for him, it was always a joke. He would say, “Yeah, I’m heavy.” He would look at me and I weigh 140 pounds, and he would say, “I can’t be skinny like you.” He tried all the time to lose weight. I will say one thing, every time we went out, he always said, “I’ll have chicken.” And he would say he was going to go run or walk, and he had bad knees. He was always in bad health, but he was always aware of it and always trying to do better. I would see him, and he would say, “I lost 10 pounds!” He wanted people to know it… and then cancer. He couldn’t figure out a way to beat the cancer.
Allison Kugel: What is the greatest advice you ever received?
Carrot Top: It might not be one thing that one person has told me. It’s kind of me being on this planet and giving me my own advice. I know to be a good soul. I know to be kind to people. I know to work hard. I know to not get into fights. I know to not start fights or gossip about people. I know to not steal jokes. I never do a New Year’s resolution because I don’t do anything that I would need to do differently. Although there was one piece of advice given to me by Buddy Hackett. I was in an airport, and I said, “Oh my God, it’s Buddy Hackett! Wow.” I walked over to him and said, “Buddy. Wow! I’m a comic and just wanted to say that you’re brilliant.” When I was a young comic, he was on The Tonight Show all the time. He said, “I’m going to give you some advice.” I said, “Okay what is the advice?” He wrote on a napkin, “The key to the treasure is the treasure.”
Allison Kugel: That’s a brain twister.
Carrot Top: So, I get on the plane and I’m staring at it for five or ten minutes, trying to break it down. Like, what the hell? Was he drunk? I think a friend of mine explained it to me. The key to life is life. Live for today. The key to happiness is happiness. Very simple and yet very true. The key to everything is for us living today and the key to success and the key to love, finding love is finding love.
Allison Kugel: It is being it, and embodying it, and being in the moment.
Carrot Top: Yes. I thought that was great. Pretty cool advice and made you kind of have to think a little bit.
Allison Kugel: Have you ever felt that you had to use substances, like weed or whatever, to come up with material?
Carrot Top: No, completely sober. I don’t smoke marijuana. I never have. I don’t think I have been drunk since high school, literally. I drink enough to get drunk. I have friends, like Gene Simmons per se, he’s never had a drop of booze, zero. I’m not that pure. I definitely have a little Crown on the rocks right before a show. We do a ceremonial shot of Crown, then I do the show. Then I’ll come home and watch TV with a glass of red wine. A couple lines of coke and…. Just kidding. I’m definitely not the drug guy. I’m actually more of a nerd than anything else.
Allison Kugel: Yes, I’m seeing that but in a good way. Have you ever had to confront a comic for either stealing a joke or stealing a part of your act?
Carrot Top: Other comics will get like that sometimes. There was one incident with Dennis Miller, where he had a thing against me. It was a story that was misconstrued, and he thought this happened and this happened, and he was always mad at me. When I talked to him in person, he realized he was wrong and now we are best friends. Gallagher had a little spat with me one time. He said, “Why did you steal my act?” I said, “Which act? What are you talking about?” We ended up talking it through and I didn’t steal his act. He just had this feeling that what I did was touching his type of thing. Was similar and I explained to him “We’re not even close.” He said, “Okay, well never mind.”
Allison Kugel: What do you think you came into this life as Scott Thompson aka “Carrot Top” to learn, and what do you think you came here to teach?
Carrot Top: Wow, good questions! How to get along with other humans and learn how to be a good guy. Literally, where you’re always about love and listening to other people, hearing their problems, and becoming a human being on this planet. It’s like if every day you go to this bar and you see the same people in that bar, and everyone gets along because they’re all in that bar and they are friends. Well, take that outside of the bar and do that everywhere you go. Everywhere you go, when you walk into a store, or walk into a mall, be just as nice to everyone in that mall, same as you would be at the bar with those people that you know and see every day. That kind of thing. There is no reason why we can’t have that.
Allison Kugel: And what do you think you came here to teach?
Carrot top: I’m here to teach well probably the same. You want to learn how to become a good person and you want to teach people how to do that as well. Being a performer it’s kind of weird. I always feel like I wanted to be a teacher when I was in school. I had a chalk board, I used to pretend I was writing things on the chalkboard, and I had my little bell. Then I got into comedy. In a sense you are almost teaching every night. You have a new audience, a new classroom of people, and you’re teaching them. How lucky am I in my job? I go to work every night and tell jokes.