COCOA, Fla. – As the son of a NASA engineer growing up in Cocoa's High Point neighborhood, Scott "Carrot Top" Thompson would scavenge construction debris from a nearby housing development — honing the creative ingenuity that later crowned him "Comedy's King of Props."
"They’d have this leftover scrap wood. I’d go run and get this extra scrap wood and build these incredible two-story forts. I would put in shag carpeting, and I put in power. My dad was like, ‘Why did our electric bill triple?’ " Carrot Top recalled during a phone interview from Las Vegas, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.
"My dad went up and said, 'Gee, you're plugged into the house?' I said, 'Yeah, where am I supposed to plug to?' " Carrot Top said.
"I do that with my props now. When I'm creating all these props, it's kind of the same as when I was a little kid. I kind of got the little engineer spark from my dad, you know?" he said.
Carrot Top was born in Rockledge, and he is a 1983 Cocoa High graduate. Since 2005, he has performed more than 200 comedy shows per year at the pyramid-shaped Luxor Hotel and Casino, a Las Vegas landmark.
"When I first got the offer to do it, I turned it down. I was like, 'I don't want to be in Vegas. That’s where old guys go to die.' Then I took the gig, and I've slowly turned into ... I can’t imagine not doing this here. It's like my second home, besides Orlando," he said.
According to the IMDb database, Carrot Top is known for three trademarks: red hair, performing flamboyant prop comedy acts, and “tiny shorts.”
He performs six nights per week and takes off one week per month, typically returning to his lakefront Winter Park home — “I live on my boat as much as I can” — or taking his zany act on the road. The Luxor contract extension will push his residency to the 20-year mark.
"I've been here so long, I’m kind of a staple here now. The crowds and the people, they keep coming. The locals are fine with my billboards being up there — I'm always appreciative of that, for all those years of them having to stare at me in traffic," Carrot Top said.
“I can’t imagine not being in Vegas. Of course, I’ll retire back to Florida. But I’m still rocking. I feel like I’m younger now than when I was when I first started. I’ve gotten into a rhythm. I’ve got a nice little thing going,” he said.
Space Coast roots
Carrot Top attended St. Mary Catholic School and Clearlake Middle School, where he played drums in band.
His late father, Larry Thompson, logged a 30-year NASA career at Kennedy Space Center, working on the Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and space shuttle programs from 1964-94. His work fields included astronaut training, astronaut quarters, space shuttle program planning and orbiter logistics.
"With my father working at NASA, when you’re a kid you don't think about how cool it is — you're just like, 'Oh, I don't want to go to another launch,' " Carrot Top said.
"Looking back, I'm like, 'Geez, I remember the day I got to shake hands with John Young and Bob Crippen and all those guys.' My dad introduced me to Neil Armstrong. It's remarkable how you think back at how cool it was," he said.
Carrot Top's mother, Donna Wood, used to own Love Tennis during the 1970s on Brevard Avenue in Cocoa Village. She has lived in Las Vegas for more than 20 years, and he introduced her to ABC's "Live with Kelly and Ryan" studio audience during the Dec. 27 episode.
Carrot Top's prolific comedy career dates to an open mic night during his freshman year at Florida Atlantic University: His roommate convinced him to sign up. He remembers logging early performances at a Cocoa restaurant on U.S. 1 and in a former Cocoa Beach nightclub.
In December 2015, Carrot Top performed on the Space Coast for the first time in nearly a decade at the King Center for the Performing Arts in Melbourne.
"I love going back. It's a beautiful theater, and it's always packed. We had a really good time last time I was there. Some of my teachers were there, and it was a great night," he said.
Last month, Las Vegas Magazine included Carrot Top in its unorthodox 11-member Hall of Fame class of present-day attractions around town. The publication is a weekly desktop fixture in 112,000 hotel rooms across the Las Vegas Valley.
The other inductees: Absinthe, Barry Manilow, Cirque du Soleil, The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, David Copperfield, the fountains of Bellagio, TAO Nightclub and Bistro at The Venetian, the Vegas Golden Knights, Wayne Newton and Wolfgang Puck.
"When it came around to comedy, the entire roundtable: I mean, unanimous. Carrot Top. There wasn't even a discussion. Carrot Top was the absolute lock for that inaugural spot," said Ken Miller, editor of Las Vegas Magazine.
"I've seen his show now probably six times since I've lived in Las Vegas. I know a writer who works for our magazine who has seen his show 20 times. And one of the constants about that show is that no matter what time of year you go, no matter what mood you're in, Carrot Top is going to put a smile on your face. Guaranteed," Miller said.
"He is one of the most tireless performers I have ever seen," he said.
Carrot Top said he texted Copperfield and joked that they were sharing honors with Bellagio’s fountains: “I’m in the Hall of Fame with fountains. How did the fountains get in the Hall of Fame? They’re just fountains,” he said, laughing.
Back on the road
Carrot Top plans to transport his trunks of props across the Midwest during his March off-week:
March 18: MotorCity Casino Hotel in Detroit, Michigan
March 19: Brown County Music Center in Nashville, Indiana
March 20: Ameristar Casino and Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri
March 21: Treasure Island Resort & Casino in Welch, Minnesota
March 22: Arcada Theater in St. Charles, Illinois
"You can get into a thing where you feel like it's the same show in the same room. So the road is always important to kind of keep you on your toes. You're forced to write more jokes, because you're not doing the Vegas act," Carrot Top said.
"When I bring the show to Orlando, I don't do the Vegas show that I do here. You have to adapt and make new things, new bits and ideas," he said.
Carrot Top got chomped by a computer-generated shark in the campy 2016 disaster flick "Sharknado: The 4th Awakens," one of his 24 IMDb movie and television credits.
"I showed up on the set, and I played an Uber driver. They said, 'That's a wrap on Carrot Top' — and I'm like, 'Wait a minute! Am I not getting eaten?' And (director Anthony Ferrante) is like, 'Do you want to get eaten?' And I'm like, 'The whole reason anyone would want to be on 'Sharknado' is to get eaten!'
"So he's like, 'All right. Set up Carrot Top's shark attack!' A guy comes out with a ladder, and he climbs the ladder with a camera. He goes, 'Action!' and I just tumble around on the hood of a car.
"And he goes, 'All right. There you go. You got eaten.' "
UNLV hall of fame
Nancy Uscher is dean of the UNLV College of Fine Arts. Calling Carrot Top "a stalwart," she said his induction into her school's hall of fame was long overdue.
"This hall of fame is about celebrating artists and entertainers who have really made our wonderful city of Las Vegas what it is," Uscher said.
Carrot Top will be inducted into the UNLV College of Fine Arts Hall of Fame on April 7, joining comedy magician Mac King and art critic-author Dave Hickey in this year's class.
True to his hectic schedule, Carrot Top has an 8 p.m. performance at Luxor on that date.
"He has to go back and do a show. So we're going to do something really special — and induct him during cocktail hour," Uscher said.
"We're going to do something a little unorthodox. The guests, I think, will be very thrilled in the way we're going to be honoring him a little bit early in the evening. Because he's a hard-working person, and he doesn't want to disappoint his fans," she said.
Carrot Top said he considers himself lucky to have decades of longevity with his fans.
“It’s so weird. Anyone in the world that thinks you can’t do something — especially from a little town — you’ve always got to believe in yourself and do it, whether people say you can or not. I can come from little Rockledge, Florida. I’m very proud of my hometown.”