Sunday, January 25, 2004

Carrot Top promises to prop up the laughs


By Jeff Wilson
Enquirer contributor


What: Carrot Top

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Taft Theatre, downtown

Tickets: $25 at Ticketmaster, 562-4949;

His curly mop of red hair, unusual name and innovative use of props quickly set him apart from other comedians.

But what really launched Carrot Top into the stratosphere was a series of AT&T commercials so ubiquitous that this ex-marketing major deserves an honorary doctorate just for agreeing to star in the short, wacky skits.

The zany, self-deprecating prop comic will bring his self-described "rock-and-roll comedy show" to the Taft Theatre Wednesday.

You do more than 100 shows a year in Las Vegas. How do Vegas audiences compare with other cities?

For me, getting on the road and getting out of here (Vegas) is fun. I don't consider this the real world. People that come here are all the same. They come in, they sit down, they watch, they leave, whereas on the road you do a show, they get excited because they're in their town.

What kind of show are you bringing to the Taft?

A lot of people are only familiar with the television commercials, or they've seen me on Leno, and it's a different kind of show. It's a big production: pyrotechnics, lights, fog machines and blowers.

Will it be less risque than in comedy clubs?

I don't think so. Over the years, I've changed my show (so) everyone can come. I played a show last night, and there were 8-year-olds in the audience.

How did props become a part of your act?

I was in college, doing my degree in marketing, and my roommate said, "Dude, you're really funny, they're having this open mike, you should get into it." I went down there and did old jokes ... Then I kept going - bringing it to the next level. I went to a comedy club and did something, and (the owner) said, "You're an act, you can't do old jokes." So I came up with this whole visual thing, the prop ... I never wanted it to be a pun. I wanted to make it more inventive. Everything that I would do in a prop form could be translated into a verbal joke. A comic like Seinfeld could say the joke and it would still be funny.

You hear about the office clown who gets talked into doing an open mike at a comedy club, performs, and bombs. Why is the response so different in a club?

When you're being funny around your office, co-workers already know you. There's no barrier. They all like you. It's not a threat. I was always lucky. I had this silly, boyish look about me, so when I hit the stage, it wasn't a threat. I made fun of myself. My name's Carrot Top; that's already a self-deprecation thing. When I hit the stage I said, "I know I'm not that attractive, but, hey, I look like the Wendy's girl," and I'd put my hair in pigtails. It's a non-threatening little poke at myself.

How much improvisation is in your show?

There's always improv. There's a structure, an outline [and] a beginning and an end. I know exactly what I'm going to open with, but my opening is always different. I always do it local. I say, "Hey, here we are in Cincinnati," and I'll do jokes about being in Cincinnati for the first few minutes. And they'll warm up, like, 'Hey, he knows our town, he's been here.' That's cool because that lets them know I'm not just reading off a card.

Locally the big news is Pete Rose admitting he bet on baseball. Can you explain why that should help his cause?

I don't know what that's about. For years they've been talking about admitting it or not admitting, and he kept denying it. Why does that guarantee him getting back in baseball? It sure doesn't encourage young people. ... but I don't think we care about young people anymore.

Sometimes your show includes baseball bats designed for specific players. What bat would you recommend for Pete?

Maybe it's got one of the slot machine things built into it. It's like, "I know he bet on baseball, but do you see his bat?"

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