While Mark ‘Chopper’ Reid was writing children’s books and doing op-ed pieces for FHM, Franklin was converting his public persona into something of a bogan’s Tim Minchin. ‘Fark’ we all cried as Uncle Chop-Chop commanded Australia to ‘Harden The Fuck Up!’, ‘He’s saying what everyone’s finking!’ And it was true. Heath Franklin’s Chopper attracted huge crowds of men-who-wear-singlets-as-eveningwear, even to the back of the Fringe’s über-Bohemian Garden of Unearthly Delights. All of them laying down good beer money to see their masculine fantasies about calling entire swathes of society ‘cunts’ played out live with beer-bellied bravado by Franklin.
Chopper’s Republic of Anzakistan takes a slightly different angle. And with it, Franklin may be onto something. Yes, the observational humour about everyone who’s a fuckwit from Broome to Byron Bay is still as present as his punctuational ‘fuck yeah’s. If you want to hear gags about how vegans always tell you they are, and how people who DIY are morons, this is the show for you. Pot-shots at dickheads are Franklin’s bread and butter (and large chips), and he does it well. Singlet up, neck a cheeky and you’re guaranteed a laugh and have a good time.
However, during the course of the show, it becomes quickly apparent this is a man who’s earned his living as a working artist and, despite the material, he’s more of lefty than the handlebars would first indicate. The political jokes are standard fair for most Australian comedians with any sort of angle on current events, and Franklin delivers the material with the same blokey aplomb that’s probably imitated esky-side around the nation.
His audience loves hearing about how stupid our politicians are, they cheer for it. They cheer for the next gags about how stupid political parties in general are. ‘Dickhead pollies!’ they chant. And suddenly, that same audience is cheering for Chopper as he points the fuckwit finger at what may very well be his next, most influential target: themselves.
With Chopper's Republic Of Anzakistan Franklin subtly, discreetly turns on exactly the sort of person who regards a convicted murderer, paid to brag in public as something of a bloody good laugh. "Halal funds terrorism?" shouts Chopper, with an incredulity only just used on the gluten-free-by-choice "PROVE IT! That’s like saying 'Brussels sprouts make the dragon stronger'. FUCKEN' PROVE IT!"
His target audience – who it’s not hard to imagine nodding at the long bow stretched between food certification and suicide bombers – cheer and cheer. ‘Fuckwits!’ they laugh as Chopper settles the show with a list of rules for his new republic in which everyone is actually pretty nice to each other, and refugees too (another enthusiastically accepted surprise).
If you’ve always skipped past Chopper as a right-wing throw-back, in Chopper's Republic Of Anzakistan we could be witnessing the turning point where Franklin starts using his mo’ for good.
Heath Franklin Chopper Tour DatesUntil Sun 28 Feb – The Garden of Unearthly Delights (Adelaide Fringe Festival)
Thurs 11 Mar – Sun 13 Mar – Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre
Wed 16 Mar – ANU Arts Centre (Canberra)
Wed 23 Mar – Sun 3 Apr - Thenaeum Theatre (Melbourne)
Thurs 5 – Sun 7 May – Factory Theatre (Sydney)