An Alabama Blizzard Once Destroyed All of Carrot Top’s Props
Prop-comedy fans probably look back at the Birmingham Comedy Club fire on March 13, 1993 with the same sorrow that scholars feel toward the blaze that took the Library of Alexandria.
One fateful winter morning almost exactly three decades ago, a blizzard buried Birmingham, Alabama, under 13 inches of snow, and the Southern city was ill-equipped to prevent the tragedy that would ensue. Sadly, the city’s premier comedy club burned down in a kitchen fire while emergency vehicles struggled to fight through the conditions to reach the inferno. Trapped inside the venue were the tools and trappings of an up-and-coming comedian from Cocoa, Florida – Carrot Top’s prop trunk was torched.
The flags that shoot out of gag guns flew at half-mast that day.
Birmingham Comedy Club proprietor Bruce Ayers awoke that March morning to a panic — a fire had broken out in his club’s kitchen, and Birmingham’s roads were buried beneath a thick blanket of frozen doom. Ayers set out on a six-mile hike through the treacherous conditions, only to reach his comedy club hours later and find it a pile of rubble. The club, which had been a bastion of laughter for the Alabama city for a decade, was no more.
That very morning, a raunchy redheaded humorist named Scott Thompson appeared in what would be the last performance at the Birmingham Comedy Club on a live morning radio show and left his signature stash of props there for a scheduled evening set. Carrot Top, on whom the irony of a prop comic getting booked for a radio show is not lost, later recalled how the cooks who served him and his hosts breakfast forgot to turn off the burners on the club’s kitchen, leading to the blaze that destroyed the institution — along with Carrot Top’s act.
Tragically, Carrot Top was scheduled to appear on comedy’s biggest stage later that week — he was supposed to make his television debut on The Tonight Show, but the appearance had to be rescheduled. Host Jay Leno joked of the surprise cancellation, “Carrot Top’s act burned down in the club, and they found Gallagher’s matches.”
Fortunately for both Ayers and Carrot Top, the club and the act respectively were rebuilt. Ayers’ sequel venue, the StarDome Comedy Club, was established later that year, and it’s still entertaining the denizens of Birmingham to this day. Carrot Top would eventually make his Tonight Show debut and continue his climb to superstardom, later returning to Birmingham and headlining the StarDome.
Reportedly, Carrot Top walked out onstage to the tune of the Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House” while carrying a fire extinguisher — you know, just in case.