Bullying, you might say, led Scott Thompson to comedy.
Tired of being picked on as a child, he fought back with humor – self-deprecating humor – and beat his critics to the punch.
“They’d say things about my red hair or my freckles,” Thompson recalls. “And I realized if I said something about my looks first, they’d just walk away.
“My mom would say, ‘Consider the source. People picking on other people are the ones who have the problem, not the ones being picked on. They’re not happy with themselves.’”
The message took seed and, today, Thompson says, he has enjoyed the fruits of a successful career as a standup.
Better known as Carrot Top (see the self-deprecation at work?), Thompson has spent 40 weeks each year at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas for more than a decade. On those off weeks, he either heads to his home in Florida or hits the road, a trailer hitched to the back of his tour bus.
Inside: An array of props that have made him a very wealthy man. One of a handful of comedians who can get a laugh out of showing common household items, Thomas has a warehouse of items he has used over more than two decades.
If he doesn’t have something in that trailer, he’ll build something on site. “It happens a lot,” he says.
Often, those props have a short shelf life. “I used to do jokes that lasted three years or longer. Now, I’m lucky if I get a week out of them. It has to be broad, not specific and you have to talk about something that’s fairly well known.”
Case in point: Thompson did a bit about coach Bobby Knight endorsing Donald Trump for president. He tried to get a laugh out of Knight’s penchant for throwing chairs but the crowd didn’t bite. “They don’t read the paper,” he says. “They don’t keep current…and it’s hard.”
Politics is fairly difficult, too. Candidates often say such outrageous things they’re often difficult to lampoon.
There’s a hint of bullying there, too, Thompson says. The difference: “They’re adults. They can take it easier than a kid can.”
That’s why the 51-year-old Florida native has gotten involved in anti-bullying campaigns across the country.
Social media, he says, has made fighting back extremely difficult. “So many kids are bashed on social media and, often, there’s nothing schools can do about it. Frequently, there’s this nonstop cycle of bullying.”
Even though he’s able to laugh off comments about himself, Thompson says they still sting.
“I still get made fun of. I have a thicker skin now. But you’ll see comments like, ‘You look like a girl’ or ‘You’re the ugliest person on the planet.’ Usually, I don’t respond. Sometimes, I’ll delete them.”
Once, he just typed “LOL” and wondered if the poster even got the joke. “If they’ve got that much spare time to comment,” he reasons, “ they’re usually not worth the time to respond.”
Currently working on the script for an upcoming film, Thompson says he’ll aggressively pursue roles if they’re something he wants to do. Otherwise, he’s thrilled living in Vegas.
“It’s nice not to have to go on the road. You can go home to your own house and lead a regular life. Outside of the Strip, there’s a lot more to offer – beautiful mountains, great shops and dining – except for the three months in summer when it’s brutally hot.”
Most days, Thompson says, he sleeps in, gets up and read the paper, looks for jokes, runs on the treadmill and goes in to work.
“If I do go out, I stand out like a sore thumb. Somebody asked me if it bothered me to be recognized. And the truth is, I’ve done this so long, I’m used to it.
“Besides, when people see me, they smile. It’s a good connection. There’s happiness there. It’s not like I’m a politician.”
Life without his signature hairstyle? He tried cutting it but that didn’t change anything. Now, Thompson just lets the carrot top fly. “It’s my brand,” he says.