Scott Thompson jokes about heading to The Mirage, “but it wasn’t there!” He talks of hoofing it toward New York-New York, which seems so close but seems to move farther in the distance even as you plod forward. “Is this place moving? I walk backwards, and it gets closer!” He speaks darkly of the suicides of those who fling themselves off the top of the Stratosphere, and points out that such life-taking attempts would not work at the Luxor because, “People would slide right down the side back into the casino! How smart is that? We’re not losing our players, no way!”
These are the observations of a veteran Vegas stand-up comic. That they are tucked somewhat haphazardly into the oft-manic act of Carrot Top is what’s fascinating. The Topper has become something of an expert on the city, trotting out a consistently inspired act filled with Las Vegas references. In these instances, he doesn’t lean on props, it’s straight stand-up, and it works because, after five years as a headliner at the Luxor, he knows his home really well. He can speak as a local when he says the Excalibur is the Strip’s version of New Jersey, that at Circus Circus “they (fleece) you twice!” and mocks the Bellagio water show by firing two squirt bottles skyward. He’s fairly fearless -- all of those hotels are MGM Mirage properties, as is the Luxor, where C.T. is resident headliner.
I'm one of those who never expected to appreciate this act. I recall the first time I saw Carrot Top at the MGM Grand's Hollywood Theatre, I was told beforehand by a friend that I would like it more than I expected. Not difficult, because I expected little more than a sideshow act you'd see at any county fair in the country. I was shocked at how funny and inventive this guy was, and afterward when I interviewed him, I was struck again by his comic intelligence. He had me cracking up and used little more than a jabbing finger as a prop. Since, as scores of fans have discovered, Carrot Top has survived at the Luxor for five years because he is more clever than many fans of relatively highbrow comedy (and in the world of prop comedy, anything more intelligent than Gallagher pulverizing a giant gourd is highbrow) would care to admit. He puts a Vegas spin on the auto dealership ads that play on the radio, where a booming baritone voice announces all the great deals at Something or Other Chevrolet, only to mumble at the end, “offers good only for those with approved credit.” The Topper rolls through a Vegas version of such an ad, mumbling at the end, “you’re going to go home a loser.”
At the end of last night’s show, Luxor President Felix Rappaport summoned members of his team and of Carrot Top’s inner circle to the stage to announce that the prop comic with the explosion of orange locks had been signed to a new contract running through 2015. Imagine that -- if the contract runs its full term, Scott Thompson will be a Strip performer until he’s nearly 50 years old (he turned 44 on Feb. 25). I think he’d do well to keep honing his non-prop comedy, maybe even offering a “Carrot Top Stripped” non-prop show once a week, or at least stopping in to open-mic nights just to run through material. I think, too, he’d be well-advised to change up his bodybuilding regimen. I call this the Joe Piscopo Syndrome, where someone who is very funny -- in this case, Joe Piscopo -- is perceived as less than when he bulks up his body to Mr. Olympia levels.
Today’s Carrot Top is himself something of a prop. He’s just huge, physically, to the point where his musculature distracts from his material (especially when he pops open a bat filled with pills to joke about baseball players taking muscle-building supplements). This is just an honest, visual observation. I’d go more cardio, less free weights. In comedy, you can be huge without being huge, props or no props.