Since leaving his native Cocoa Beach, Florida, 14 years ago, Thompson has become a pop icon. From having his name slipped into the scripts of South Park and Seinfeld to starring in several low-rent comedy flicks, the 37-year-old Thompson has cashed in on his mangled mane of fire-red hair. Still, the "rotten things" that have been written about him sting, he admits. Last month, a Time writer began his column: "Good news for Carrot Top: You don't have to be funny to make people laugh."
"I've done this for 15 years," says Thompson. "You gotta be somewhat funny to play the MGM Grand."
No doubt about it. Thompson plays to packed houses in Las Vegas 15 weeks a year. When he's not entertaining Sin City, he loads his offbeat act into an 18-wheeler and hits the road. Designed to "carrotize" audiences with its Technicolor lab of lasers and pyrotechnics, the show is studded with video screens and DayGlo trunks filled with Thompson's trademark props -- from a toilet attached to a plate ("bulimic dinnerware") to high heels with training wheels. "Everyone wants to be a rock star," he says. "And I thought, 'Why can't I make it a little more hip?'
"At the end of the night, I look at this truck and say, 'Is this all of our crap?' [Then] I say, 'Oh, my goodness. We've got to set this all up [at the next stop] again?'"
When Thompson's not touring, he's showing up on VH1 (where he was recently named one of its 25 most "cheesetastic" entertainers of all time) or collecting residual checks as the pitchman for those ubiquitous AT&T ads. "They have been a blessing and a curse," he says. "It's been huge exposure. I wouldn't have been one of those 'cheesetastic' people [otherwise], right? But they really don't showcase my career and what I do for a living."
Thompson's road show is set to change that. Or at least refresh his fans' memories of the stage routine that snagged him the Best Male Stand-Up Comedian trophy at the American Comedy Awards in 1994. More than a decade later, it's good to be Carrot Top, he says. "In the last year or two, I've got a hold on how to do this thing called comedy and to be able to deal with everything that's thrown at you: how to write a joke, how to deliver a joke," he explains. "If the joke sucks, I know how to get out of it. I just feel like I understand what I'm doing more."