Say what you want about Carrot Top, but bear in mind that most of it has been said 400 times before. The local mop-topped motormouth who made a name for himself by being annoying and never getting a haircut has become a fixture of considerable disdain, thanks largely to the "dial-down-the-middle" intrusions he's proffering in the 1-800-CALL-ATT campaign. That and 10 years of comic torture from beneath a mushroom of curly red locks. He's the kind of guy you want to hit, not talk to. Which is why I'm grimacing as he recounts his trials over the phone while shopping for backyard pottery at a statue shop.
"It's nice that I get to call my own paper," he flirts. "I'm always calling the Detroit Sun or something, not Orlando."
Name dropper. So, you're coming to play your hometown. Tell us about your show, Carrot Cake.
"Well, you know, the show has kind of evolved," he pontificates. "You have to go by what's in the news, and I think last time I `played` in town, Clinton was still in office. I got a whole new set that I've only done, like, one or two shows on. It's kind of a metal look -- kind of rock & roll. It looks like KISS, kind of."
Hydraulics then? Kind of?
"Yeah! There are lifts that come up, and a smoke machine, all kinds of ... crap."
Crap, then. Any fear that you're losing your edge, popping up in constant rotation on middle-American televisions? Are you selling out to the man ... man?
"Someone else said, 'Y'know, if you were a band, you'd probably get called a sellout,'" he sells out. "With comics, you wanna get as much exposure as you possibly can. What's kind of funny is, there's a lot of people saying, 'What are you doing?' And I'm, like, 'My show.' And they're like, 'You have a show? I didn't know you were a comic.'"
Me neither. Has overexposure worn on you?
"It's made me more creative, probably. I get to add a whole new angle," he adds an angle. "I do this thing about advertising in the show and how commercials are annoying. I talk about the Subway commercial and that Jared guy. Then I talk about the Pontiac commercial and say that I'd wreck it. Then I say, 'I can't think of any more annoying commercials,' and then all of the sudden up behind me comes 1-800-CALL ATT."
Are you compelled to be dirty? Surely smut is funnier than advertising.
"I think with AT&T, I've cleaned it up a bit," he wipes. "The live show is so different than what the commercials are showing. I mean, they're silly, they're 15 seconds, and I'm selling a phone. The live show has a rock & roll feel to it. I wouldn't say dirty, but it's got an edge. It's not sexual stuff, either. It's more loud."
I'm thinking Gallagher. I'm burping, and I'm thinking Gallagher. I loooove Gallagher.
"I get that comparison, I think because of the visual aspect," he mallets.
I think it's that you're both not funny. Which leads us to the question of whether you're able to handle criticism. I mean, nobody likes you.
"There was this guy the other day on Howard Stern really dissing me," he whines. "Since the first day I started doing this, I realized that people just like to attack you. I mean, I'm a pretty likable character ... "
"The guy on Howard Stern was being downright forthright," he rattles on. "He was saying that ... I suck, that I'm ruining comedy. Then, the 'Monsters of the Mid-day' did a whole hour defending me. I mean, I can make fun of myself, but I wonder if Bill Cosby got that with Jell-O!"
Bill Cosby never made a desperately awful film like "Chairman of the Board."
"That was a long time ago ..." he dusts.
Not that long. Was it hard coming back?
"It was tough, because I wasn't really ready to do anything at that time," he flounders. "It was cute for what it was -- just a simple little movie that was nothing special at all. Going from that and trying to get back, it was kind of a weird time. They really dropped the ball, kind of. It's looked at now as kind of a joke movie."
But you're a joke guy. Surely, you saw it coming ...
"I didn't suffer from it in any way," he lies. "I would love to do another film now, where I have a little more say-so. These commercials are giving me a little bit more room to put my own stuff in."
So you're positioning.
"I think that's what we always do," he positions. "The commercials are definitely a stepping stone for me to show people another side of me."
But are there ever days when you just don't want to be Carrot Top?
"It's too late," he takes me too seriously. "I already bit that off and chewed too much of it. There are days you want to go out and be just normal. ... You put on a hat and people are like, 'What, are you trying to hide?' So it's best just to be who you are."
Like the beefy sometimes-circuit boy that you've become?
"I've definitely been working out a lot. I've always been an athlete, though, so with me, it's not really like I've beefed up. People see me running, and they're like, 'Damn, dude, you're cut!'"
"When I last saw you, I sure wanted to get up in some of that," I hedge, trying to get him to admit to something that might make him sound edgy and sexual.
"Were you admiring my pecs?" he woos, immediately causing my nausea to well up.