New interview with Aussie comedian ‘Chopper’

To be published in Groove guide – Oct 30 2012

Although one of Australia’s most dangerous men is sitting in the back of his taxi the driver appears unperturbed. This might be because he’s enclosed on a knife proof bubble that protects him from his would be assailants-slash-customers. Or it could be because his esteemed passenger is travelling under his real life nom de plume, Heath Franklin. Franklin does appear pretty relaxed for a high vis-crim-cum-comedic personality, as he casually chats on the shoe phone whilst heading in to the Adelaide domestic terminal. Already a few dates into the The (S)hitlist, starring Heath Franklin’s Chopper he’s had opportunity to road test material using local small town Aussies as guinea pigs. The title for the show comes from a particularly bad experience with a takeaway, and unmentionable post event dunnie stop. “I’d been doing a heap of shows in rural Australia and as always there’s very little cuisine on offer after we strike the set each night. So inevitably you end up at the local chippie or some such.” Experience after experience told him not to go there but night after night he returned. So it goes on the list But there are others – Restaurant serves your dinner cold. Put it on the (S)hitlist! The word ‘chillax’. (S)hitlist! Friend stabbed you. (S)hitlist! Just saw a romantic comedy you didn’t like… well maybe put yourself on the (S)hitlist for that one! “My material is about those little obscure things (like bad takeaways) that we all collectively hate. It’s finely crafted ire, manifested in verbose, with a wide smattering from the palette.” Put less delicately ‘Chopper’ is well known for his colourful language. “Actually, it’s funny. The audience role in each night with the airs and graces but after the show they’re all F-ing’ this and F-ing that! I like to think I’ve ‘Chopperized’ them!” Franklin’s obsession with Chopper, the notorious Aussie outlaw began around 2001. A film about the real Mark “Chopper” Brandon came out in 2000 launching not only actor Eric Bana’s career but Franklin’s too. “At the time everyone was into Austin Powers. I was obsessed with this lovable rogue, with his bad tats, handle bar moustache. He has this mix of ultra violence and charm. The books about him kinda led to his own career on TV and radio. He’s a big personality in his own way over here.” The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, there. Little Franklin was always a bit of smart arse, even at school, terrorising teachers at his North Sydney school with a pranks and colourful outbursts. “I was always trying to think of the most obnoxious things to say, to get a laugh. I was in detention so much that one day I got thrown of the bus because the teachers thought I should be there – I was actually innocent that one day. Now, of course I’ve managed to turn stirring into a paid hobby.” Finding fame on Aussie’s Network Ten’s The Ronnie Johns Half Hour, which he and some Uni mates co-wrote, he’s been nominated for a Logie and an ARIA award nominated. “Chopper’ was a way of articulating my frustrations at things. When I complained to my fellow writers about stuff (during writing the TV show) they wouldn’t take me seriously. Then I did the same with the voice of Chopper – ‘Yeah, you should do that, he’s great’ they’d say.” So Chopper became the voice of pent up frustration, just generally being p***ted off at stuff. Every now and then I have to power cleanse my brain but I’ll keep doing Chopper forever, I think. Not like other comedians who have to change characters (when it gets too much), I keep thinking of ideas, a certain level of outrage to “Chopperize’, which I’ll translate into his ‘voice’. There’s plenty of gold left in the hills!” Asked about how the real Chopper feels about his humorous doppelganger, Franklin is a little coy:” I’ve never actually met him but I’ve met his dog ‘babysitter’, friends, associates, men in dark coats with bulging gun pockets… They either say he loves the act or there’s a contract out on my life! It’s probably somewhere in the middle.” Franklin has taken his character to many places including the Edinburgh Festival. “Different cultures identify with aspects – they all have bogans, they all get outrages and they all can shout “F——-K! When it all gets too much. Universal themes, really.” Franklin is so comfortable in his adopted, tattooed skin that he’s able to operate quite spontaneously on TV shows like 7 Days, where he’s a regular and will be appearing next week. “That partly comes from dealing with hecklers, too.” Nobody messes with Chopper. Laugh, you Buggers – or else!

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