Carrot Top could squish this columnist like a cheap prop
HE WAS ONE OF those guys you keep an eye on. So when I headed toward the bathroom at Border Grill, I wasn’t thrilled that the guy with the Schwarzenegger biceps popping out of the cutoff denim shirt, the crazy eye-makeup and the punky red ‘fro was right behind me. I was going to be mugged for tortilla soup.
When the scary punk turned to me in the bathroom and commented on the weird inverted bowl sink, the sad truth dawned on me: I was afraid of Carrot Top.
A few months later my friend, Josh Tyrangiel at Time magazine, reported that he had seen Carrot Top at Gold’s Gym, lifting an impressive amount of weight. Josh also, upon interrogation, admitted that he walked over to Top and told him, unsolicited, “I like your stuff.” Josh can be mocked at josh_tyrangieltimemagazine.com.
If I was going to blend in as an Angeleno, it only seemed reasonable that, at a minimum, I get as big as Carrot Top. If prop comedians were in far better shape than me, what chance did I have in this town? So I called to see if he’d give me a personal training session.
I met Top at a 24 Hour Fitness in Costa Mesa, where he was performing at the O.C. Fair that night. It took me a while to get down to Costa Mesa because it is inconveniently located in Costa Mesa. So I only caught the end of his back-and-bicep workout. A Carrot Top workout waits for no man.
I could not believe just how huge Carrot Top is. He’s the size of five or six normal Carrot Tops. He told me that he lifts seven days a week, shaves his body and downs protein shakes filled with creatine, glutamine and nitric oxide. I don’t know what any of those things are, but they sound like the least funny props I’d ever heard of.
The first thing Top, who was wearing a surprising number of ankle bracelets, taught me is that technique is far more important than weight. Despite his size, Top only benches 200 pounds on a Hammer Strength machine and uses 35-pound dumbbells for curls.
He told me he didn’t count reps, instead just doing four sets until exhaustion. “I don’t want to get too big. I’m a comedian,” he said. Joe Piscopo, he explained, is a warning sign to weightlifting comedians. Piscopo, really, is a warning sign for non-weightlifting comedians too. In fact, you can replace the animal in any of Aesop’s Fables with “Joe Piscopo” and it still works.
As we were bonding over bicep curls, which he told me to twist out so that my bicep peaks, I got up the nerve to ask about the thick black mascara he was wearing. “I like to be camera ready,” he explained. Top apparently believes that we live in a world where crowds of Japanese tourists gather around stray piles of props, waiting for a comedian who knows how to use them.
Top, who curses a blue streak, says that he would like to shave his head for a part in an action film. “I think it would be fun to be in this field with a shaved head and a machine gun, blowing things up,” he said. “Every comic wants to kill somebody with machine guns.” I laughed uncomfortably, realizing I was right all along in the Border Grill.
Though he has always been a jock, having been on his Florida high school’s wrestling and swimming teams, Top got serious about lifting two years ago. He said he needed something to do before shows when he was on the road. There aren’t, if you think about it, all that many daytime Carrot Top-friendly activities. Because after the first time you accept a Carrot Top collect call, you don’t make that mistake again.
Although he says that working out doesn’t help him lift heavy props, it does help get his blood flowing to his brain to help him think of material. In fact, before I arrived, he started to come up with an observational bit about how there are so many Spanish-language stations in Southern California. If you saw his arms you would have laughed too.
I was starting to feel empathy for Josh.
After doing some crunches, Top cracked open a cold can of creatine and we headed outside into the crisp Costa Mesa air. And I thought to myself, why can’t Carrot Top be a weightlifter, or even an action hero? Why do we allow ourselves to be completely defined by the sliver of identity we’ve gotten approval for? Why should I have to end every column with a cheap joke?
Then I looked at Carrot Top’s hair and his mascara and his giant arms. The man looked like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade float of Lucille Ball.