No one is ever going to confuse Carrot Top with Rodney Dangerfield.
But the red-maned comedian, who rode immense popularity on the college-comedy circuit to a three-picture deal with Tri-Mark Pictures, shares at least one thing in common with his bug-eyed elder.
Both suffer from, you guessed it, a lack of respect.
Of course, Dangerfield’s complaints are an acknowledged part of his act. In fact, they are the entire basis of his act.
Carrot Top, on the other hand, is simply a target of anyone who wonders how a relative unknown can, all of a sudden become the star of feature film. For that is what the 29-year-old Florida native has done.
In “Chairman of the Board,” which opens in Spokane today, Carrot Top plays a surf-riding, unemployed inventor named Edison who, through movie-land circumstances (the death of a mentor), becomes the head of a major corporation.
Call it “Big” meets “Tommy Boy.” Carrot Top, his sense of humor showing, calls it “Deliverance” meets “Tootsie.”
“I play a cross-dressing redneck,” he said, laughing.
Speaking by phone from Los Angeles recently, the comic - known by his parents by the more mundane name of Scott Thompson - discussed everything from his disappointment at not making a scheduled appearance at last weekend’s Pig Out in the Park (he was shooting a second movie) to his favorite summer movies (he liked Sylvester Stallone’s own quest for peer recognition in “Cop Land”).
But respect, or the lack of it, was never far away.
Which is only natural, considering that most of us know this rabbit-food-named comic phenomenon only from the jokes made by late-night talk-show hosts.
“For a while there it was like making fun of Carrot Top was the cool thing,” the comic said. “It was an easy plug-in. ‘Blank, blank, blank, add word Carrot Top,’ and you got a laugh.
He even got dissed in a book.
“I’m on an airplane and I’m reading Dennis Miller’s book ‘Rants,”’ he said, “and sure enough, it’s like on page 50, my name is mentioned. I’m being referenced, and the reference is, ‘The next thing you know is that you’ll get a three-picture deal faster than you can say Carrot Top.’
“It wasn’t like he slam-slammed me,” he said, “but it was like he said, ‘If Carrot Top can get a three-picture deal, then anyone can.’ And I look at that like, well, I’ve worked hard for 10 years on this.”
A jokester as a youngster, whose buzzcut was a huge contrast with his Larry Fine-type mane of today, Scott Thompson became Carrot Top in college. After getting his start before college audiences doing old George Carlin jokes - “My hero,” he says - Thompson worked on his own material so that he could work professional comedy clubs.
He was barely 20 and still a couple of years from winning a marketing degree from Flordia Atlantic University, but he learned fast. For one thing, he noticed how much of a response he earned by using props.
“I realized that that was what works,” he said. “Everybody stands up there and talks. But I would have something fun to show them, like show and tell. Suddenly, I was known as the guy who had the props.”
And what props they are, stored away in as many as 35 trunks. There’s the boot with kickstand “for drunk cowboys,” the high heels with training wheels, a fire hydrant with handles “for disabled dogs,” a plate attached to a toilet (“dinnerware for bulimics”) and Hugh Grant jeans (with The Club locked on the crotch).
Some of Carrot Top’s act is tasteless, some of it is stupid, much of it is funny and all of it is offered in a circus-like, free-spirited atmosphere.
It’s been enough to keep him employed for nearly a decade, doing up to 200 live shows a year. It earned him a daily show on the Cartoon Newtwork, his own Web site (www.carrottop.com), a forthcoming book and several television appearances - including a brief self-parody on the HBO’s critically acclaimed “Larry Sanders Show.”
For Carrot Top, the Sanders appearance was his biggest thrill to date. What’s ironic is that the joke was on him.
The episode involved a comedy roast of Sanders, who plays the host of a late-night talk show. After talks by such comic luminaries as Dana Carvey and Al Franken, Carrot Top comes on as the special guest star.
“I thought it was great to take a shot at myself like that,” Carrot Top said. “I like the fact that I’m his special guest star because I wouldn’t be. The whole thing is that he would expect someone like Carl Reiner or Mel Brooks.”
Instead, he got something called Carrot Top, the Sylvester Stallone of today’s comedy scene.
“I’m always the one sitting around going, ‘I can’t ever get any respect from other comics because I’m always doing the props and being goofy guy,”’ he said. “I should say, ‘Who cares?’ But you do care.”