This piece was published before the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
He’s been gone for a year to spend time with family, but now Chopper, or at least comedian Heath Franklin’s incarnation of the infamous man, is back with a renewed love for his craft and a brand-new show, 'The Silencer'.
In his year off Heath can’t say he saw and did things that he says have contributed to his new material.
“Hanging out with your kids isn’t a great source for Chopper material,” Heath jokes. “Wouldn’t it be funny if Chopper was like, ‘you know when you run out of lunchbox ideas?’ It doesn’t quite work.”
“It didn’t necessarily help the creative process but it’s good to get back on the horse now. The brain is back in the zone.”
So, does Heath feel the actual Chopper would have been as disgruntled or making jabs at what’s going on in the same way Heath does? “He probably would have been less conscious of it, I suppose,” Heath reasons. “I’d assume that if he was around, he’d just be like, ‘oh phones are for idiots, selfies are stupid,’ just that typically old bloke who’s out of touch with technology.”
“Obviously I’m not content to do just ‘why don’t you take a photo of someone else’ kind of material – I think there’s a big divide; if he’d have touched on the subjects and how he would have done it.”
To a degree, it’s safe to say that Heath’s Chopper is fairly divergent from the original person. “Out of necessity as much as anything at this point,” Heath says. Looking back at some of his earlier material, it’s all based in the immediate world of the Andrew Dominik/Eric Bana film ‘Chopper’, released in 2000. “You don’t want to be smarter than the audience, you want them to get on board straight away so that was a nice, immediate way of accessing jokes.”
“I’ve had to slowly stretch my legs and leave the heyday of the '80s underworld behind me and look for greener pastures in terms of creativity and relevance.
“I want the character to be perceived the way everyone knows, and then gently, subtly undermine that, or flip it.”
At Chopper shows, Heath has the big job of translating things he loves into Chopper’s lexicon. In doing so, Heath says he has to examine a lot of his own ideas and test their durability to actually reach that process. “There’s a little self-examination that goes through these writing process.”
'The Silencer' tour is a huge run of dates – going from Townsville to Gosford to Fremantle, the audience changes a tad in the reception of the material, but it’s also Australiana at its best and universally accepted and acknowledged.
“It has to be universal when it comes down to it,” Heath says. “I know my audience and who they are – you’re obviously trying to expand that but at the same time, please the people that are already there.”
“There’s a range of topics I can and can’t deal with – if I’ve got a room full of 45-year-old couples who are never on Facebook, I can’t have a half-hour conversation about how stupid Facebook can be.
“You’ve got a brief you’ve got to work to.”
Heath Franklin was due to play dates around the country which have been postponed due to COVID-19.