Everyone has a Chopper Read story. That’s what Heath Franklin has learned from over a decade of performing as a comedic version of the notorious Australian criminal. “I’ve got that close association with Chopper, so whether I wanted to or not, I always found out about Chopper,” Heath explains. Heath will undoubtedly receive more Chopper stories as he brings his new show ‘All Killer’ to the Perth Comedy Festival.
Heath Franklin’s Chopper originated not from the actual man, but from Eric Bana’s performance in the 2000 film based on him. “The film came out when I was in uni. I thought it was an incredible film and an amazing performance. It became one of those films where my mates would come over, we’d chuck ‘Chopper’ on, and like all those movies you and your mates like, you end up quoting it. I used to do it the same way really annoying people used to do ‘Austin Powers’.”
It didn’t take long before Heath was asked to do “that Chopper impersonation you’re always doing” for a sketch show in uni. When Heath starred in the sketch comedy series ‘The Ronnie Johns Half Hour’, his impression of Chopper became a breakout character, with his sketches often going viral. While the real Chopper was a frightening criminal with charges for robbery, assault and murder, Heath Franklin’s Chopper is a loveable larrikin whose threats are more like banter.
“When I watched the Eric Bana performance, there’s a lot going on there; he’s a big character, but he’s very dark. All the humour in that movie is great, but it’s all super dark. I was trying to find the most comedic version of Chopper. I’ve been watching his old stand-up shows – well, stand-up is a very loose term for it – and there’s brutal stories that are a little bit funny, but I think people are laughing because it’s awkward."
"So, I guess stuff that’s close to the truth is less funny. I find you’re better putting Chopper in an airport and getting all the comedy from that than putting him in a bar in Collingwood. The further away from his reality he gets, the more interesting he is, like a fish-out-of-water.”
Shows in the past have seen Heath’s Chopper make a list of everything that ‘shits’ him, and even take over a country. For ‘All Killer’, Heath will be taking beloved routines from his past shows to present a best-of. While the show will revisit old bits, Heath has endeavoured to make it fresh.
“There’s some bits where you put them in a show, and you stop doing them after a particular show, and after two or three years you come up with a really great ending for it. Or you write two separate bits in two separate shows and realise they’d work perfectly next to each other. Part of it’s the material, and part is the joy in rearranging it, putting old bits next to new bits."
"I’m trying to make sure that for the Chopper fans that have been sticking in there from the start there’s a little bit of something for everyone, and hopefully for people who are more casual Chopper fans there will be some really great bits they haven’t heard before.”