Rob Walker is, to put it somewhat mildly, not all that fond of Carrot Top or, most especially, has ads for AT&T:

The ads are never actually funny. Nor is Carrot Top, so far as I know. I’ve spent some time combing the Web looking for evidence of the Carrot Top fan base. Interviews suggest that he is popular on college campuses. He also works in Vegas. Although there’s no prop humor in the AT&T spots, much of what he does is prop-based. One example that comes up a lot is a plate for bulimics, which is attached to a miniature toilet. Another is a purse for prostitutes, which has a built in credit-card machine.

Is this really what the college students of America find funny? That group is supposedly a key market for collect calls; AT&T says its primary target is the 18- to 24-year-old age group, with 12- to 17-year-olds as the secondary target. (Another group that makes a lot of collect calls is prisoners, but that’s another story.) But I am too optimistic to believe that tomorrow’s leaders find authentic humor in Carrot Top’s act, so I can only conclude that something more subtle is going on. Spokespeople for collect-call services tend to be either babes (Jamie Pressly, Alyssa Milano) or absurd (Mr. T). Babes make sense (for about half the audience, anyway) for obvious reasons. The absurd choices—and this would include Carrot Top—must appeal to the budding ironist.

The ironic part?

Perhaps the real message of his work, then, is a critique that makes a mockery not just of the entertainment industry, but of the very notion of meritocracy in America—his success being the most damning evidence to date that the marketplace of talent is a sham. If so, the AT&T ads are the most irrefutable brief yet in this project to illuminate the maddening power of raw chance in the modern game of getting ahead because their star is not just singularly unfunny, but authentically grating. You want to take a stick to Carrot, but, truly, you cannot beat him.

Heh. Maybe Carrot Top is a partial refutation of last night’s post.

Update (2102): Apparently, Carrot Top has certain, um, extracurricular hobbies.

FILED UNDER: Popular Culture
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. PoliBlogger says:

    I dunno. As a college professor, I would not underestimate what some 18-22-year-olds find to be funny.

  2. James Joyner says:

    That thought occured to me as well.

  3. bryan says:

    The little I have seen of his comedy, it reminds me of Gallagher, which I found awfully funny. But prop humor has a very short lifespan and doesn’t translate well outside the stage.

  4. joy says:

    I’m sorry, but the one comic in the world who I find so terribly grating is Gilbert Gottfried. Now HE’S grating.

    Also, I really do have a Carrot Top at college story. But I’m going to post that on my blog.

  5. John Lemon says:

    Hey, I’m a HUGE Gilbert Godfried fan. And as for the Carrot Top story, which I was going to blog on, I think Rob Walker misses the irony in his own commentary. He is talking about an ad! Advertisers want you to remember and talk about their ad! While Walker may pontificate that his preferences should be the preferences of all, the mere fact that he has to comment on the ad proves that it is working. I trust the good folks at BBDO (or whoever is responsible for the ad), know a hell of alot more about advertising than Mr. Walker.

  6. moogirl says:

    My cat sounds exactly like Gilbert whats-his-name when I pull his toenails out.

    Personally, I like Carrot Top when he’s on stage, but that’s the ONLY time he is entertaining. I think of him as the microwave oven of comics; quick, easy, and his comedy takes NO braincells to enjoy. His whole routine is based around a play on words any 5 year old would find amusing.

    Hey, wait a minute….