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He’s the Red-Hot Redhead Cruising the Laughter Circuit : Comedy: Carrot Top avoids standard stand-up and stages more physical mania, with a tip of the hat to Gallagher.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Carrot Top never wanted to be a conventional stand-up comedian, placidly recounting his humorous life experiences or simply offering up subtle one-liners. The popular comic with the electrified mop of red hair knew from the get-go that he wanted to stage a show that was more physical, more manic.

“When I was younger I always thought, ‘If I were ever a comedian I’d make it like a rock concert,’ ” reveals Carrot Top, who was raised Scott Thompson in Cocoa Beach, Fla. “I wanted to generate that type of enthusiasm and excitement.”

Indeed, the 28-year-old funnyman, who appears at the Wiltern Theatre tonight, sometimes closes his 90-minute show with a splashy spoof of such rock icons as Madonna, U2 and Michael Jackson. This segment comes replete with smoke bombs, flashing lights and prerecorded music.

Carrot Top’s high-energy performing style and loony routines have endeared him to scores of young adults. The Florida Atlantic University marketing graduate has built a lucrative career by playing largely to college students on campuses across the United States. In 1992 he was named by the National Assn. of Campus Activities as the college Entertainer of the Year and Comedian of the Year.

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His signature gags revolve around an array of wacky props he’s constructed. There’s the baseball glove with a pacifier for striking baseball players; the Monica Seles tennis racket with a rear-view mirror; the Dr. Kevorkian bathtub toy--a rubber duck with an electrical cord; and Carrot Top’s favorite, a paper-cup-and-string phone with a third cup for call waiting.

Is Carrot Top the Generation X answer to veteran prop comic Gallagher? Carrot Top admits to having been influenced by the hyperkinetic comedian. He’s even received professional advice from Gallagher, whose manager used to live next door to him in Florida. But Carrot Top insists that the two comics possess distinctly different performing styles.

“I liked that Gallagher was doing visual stuff,” states Carrot Top, who currently resides in Charlotte, N.C. “But it wasn’t the type of thing I wanted to do. Gallagher’s props are more pun-related or they have to do with smashing things. I was looking for something with a different type of creative edge, something that had more to do with invention.”

However, some of Carrot Top’s peers have found his act to be lacking in genuine invention, wit and intelligence. Comedian Dom Irrera once dissed the up-and-comer by observing, “Carrot Top is a nice kid. But I don’t consider him a stand-up. I consider him a clown.”

Carrot Top is acutely aware of the criticisms. Some barbs have come from comedians he openly admires such as Dennis Miller and the late Bill Hicks.

“I think what I do is very creative and clever,” Carrot Top says. “A lot of comics don’t look at it that way. [That issue] always comes up. It kind of eats at you after a while. Why are so many people bitter and jealous in this business? Everybody has their own style. If you went to the movies every week and everybody acted the same way Tom Cruise did, boy, wouldn’t that suck?”

Carrot Top says he does have his supporters in the entertainment business. And then there are his fans, who often fill 2,000-3,000-seat theaters in order to experience his highly visual humor.

He says his audience is not only growing, but it’s beginning to diversify. Numerous television appearances, especially on mainstream programs like “The Tonight Show” and “Regis & Kathie Lee,” have allowed him to attract older fans and to perform more concerts outside of the college milieu. Last year the comedian won the American Comedy Award for best male stand-up in a public vote conducted by the Comedy Central cable network.

The son of a NASA engineer, Carrot Top hopes to parlay his popularity into a fruitful film career. This month he begins shooting his first movie, “Chairman of the Board.” The Trimark Pictures comedy is about an “unusual” young man who inherits the top job at an ailing corporation.

But Carrot Top isn’t simply aiming to become a quality comedic actor. His ultimate goal is to develop into a respected dramatic actor. Nevertheless, don’t look for Scott Thompson to renounce his decidedly unserious Carrot Top persona any time soon for a career as a Shakespearean actor.

“I’ll stop [performing as Carrot Top] when people stop coming,” he says. “When I find they’re not selling tickets anymore, that’s when I’ll quit.”

* Carrot Top performs tonight at 8 at the Wiltern Theatre, 3790 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. Tickets: $31, $27 and $25. (213) 380-5005.


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