You can recognize Scott Thompson this week by his custom-made Florida Atlantic shirt, which bears the FAU logo sandwiched between an arcing rainbow and a green-stalked carrot.
You might also recognize Thompson by the fact that he’s, you know, Carrot Top.
The easily identified Las Vegas-based comedian has a residency at the Luxor Hotel and Casino, where he’s performed roughly 4,000 shows since 2005. Thompson, 58, is also among the most famous graduates from Florida Atlantic University, which is set to take the national stage this week as the most unexpected member of an utterly unexpected men’s Final Four.
“For FAU, I think the basketball Final Four thing is going to put it on the map,” Thompson said. “I think this is the biggest thing that FAU, Boca Raton has ever had.”
Raised in Rockledge, Florida, Thompson enrolled at FAU as a marketing major in 1985, when most classes were conducted inside trailers and members of the student body would joke about the real meaning to the school’s acronym: Not Florida Atlantic University but Find Another University.
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The school has grown dramatically since opening in 1964 with a total enrollment of 867 students. FAU now has more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students and welcomed the largest freshman class in school history in 2022.
But FAU didn’t begin to truly expand until the 1990s, when the university developed four new campuses and the student body doubled in size. This period also saw the school’s athletics programs transition to Division I and immediately struggle. In men’s basketball, FAU had just one season with 20 or more wins on the Division I level before this season.
“When I went there, it felt in a sense like a commuter campus, to a degree,” Thompson said. “It was such a funny place to go to school, because you’d be right on the beach — and that can’t be a distraction, the beach right there.
“And of course, Boca Raton being half the time the highest city per capita in terms of wealth. So here are these poor college kids, starving, eating macaroni and cheese, and you’d see these guys in their limos and their valet parking at Publix. It was just kind of a fun dichotomy of different people in Boca.”
While he once dreamed of attending the University of Florida — he was accepted into the school but couldn’t afford the tuition, he recalled — Thompson’s career was born out of afternoon drives as a part-time courier delivering credit reports to banks in Jupiter, Florida. He’d spend the two-hour round trip tuned in to the drive-time comedy bits on a local radio station and hear commercials promoting a club in West Palm Beach.
After watching comedians perform at the comedy club, Thompson was urged by his friends and roommates to try out his own act at open-mic nights on campus. At first, he’d just recycle jokes: George Carlin jokes, scatological jokes, jokes about proctologists. Every semester, though, Thompson would try to build “my own act and style,” he said.
Before leaving campus, Thompson began working with props, which has become his trademark in a career that took off following his debut appearance on “The Tonight Show” in 1992.
“I always wondered if I’d gone to Florida or some other college, would I even have become a comic,” said Thompson. “It really happened by accident, really.”
Now, with FAU in the Final Four, work is getting in the way.
Thompson began last Saturday early, performing normal sound checks and writing material for his act before meeting his family in the afternoon. Back at the Luxor by the time FAU took the court against Kansas State in Madison Square Garden, Thompson received updates on the game as the Owls beat the Wildcats 79-76.
One was a text from his brother: I think your school is going to pull this off, he wrote.
The plan for Saturday’s matchup against No. 5 San Diego State (6:09 p.m. ET, CBS) is to record the broadcast, stay radio silent until the end of his performance and then throw a post-show party to watch the game.
“And hopefully no one tells me what happens,” he said.
He might even try to use an FAU prop during Saturday’s show, Thompson said.
“It’s just a proud moment for all the alumni. You never think something groovy like this will happen. So it’s really exciting, not only for the school but also for the whole town and Florida.
“You know, Florida gets such a bad rap for everything, so it’s a nice, refreshing little thing. Like, something positive out of Florida.”