I swear, some lists aren't much chop

Heath Franklin plays an incarcerated Chopper Read. Photo supplied.
Heath Franklin plays an incarcerated Chopper Read. Photo supplied.
Heath Franklin's portrayal of notorious criminal Chopper Read drips with f-words, including fiction. The Australian comedian swears it beats reality, writes Shane Gilchrist.

From the Ten Commandments to shopping to the music charts, lists are all around us.

However, Australian comedian Heath Franklin has taken list-making to another level: he calls it his (s)Hitlist.

Gone out for an average meal then watched a bad movie?

Put both on the (s)Hitlist. Irritated by the greeting "Hey, girlfriend"?

Hate being hugged by someone you hardly know?

Well ... you get the idea.

The 31-year-old comic's new show, "The (s)Hitlist, starring Heath Franklin's Chopper", is doing the rounds in New Zealand, an extensive tour that includes a performance at Dunedin's Regent Theatre tonight and subsequent airings in Invercargill, Queenstown, Oamaru and Timaru.

Franklin is no stranger to these shores, having visited here in the guise of various alter-egos. This time he's here as his most popular persona, based (loosely) on Mark "Chopper" Read, who spent just over a year out of prison between the age of 20 and 38 for crimes ranging from armed robbery, to assault and kidnapping and claims to have killed 19 people (he was once convicted of attempted murder).

The idea of impersonating the notorious Australian criminal arrived when Franklin watched Australian actor Eric Bana play Chopper in the movie of the same name in 2000.

"While others were rushing around doing impersonations of Austin Powers at the time, I was the creepy guy doing Chopper. I first started doing Chopper at Macquarie University in Sydney then did it at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, which led to a television show."

Franklin (31), who made his television debut on The Ronnie Johns Half Hour, which first screened in 2005, was nominated for an Australian Logie award (the inaugural Graham Kennedy Award for Most Outstanding New Talent) the following year.

"One of the first television pieces I did as Chopper was the 'Weather Sketch', which was two and a-half minutes long and had 62 f-words in it," Franklin says, adding he has always been more interested in the myth of Chopper than the man himself.

"The honest truth is, the real Chopper has never really interested me that much. I was really interested in Eric Bana's portrayal of him as quite charming, then homicidal - these swings from quiet to violent. Obviously, comedy is all about the shades of grey between the extremes.

"Obviously, you can say things as Chopper that people would be very uncomfortable with if I had said them.

"The other side is there are some topics that I'll not be able to address as Chopper. For example, my wife and I had our first child 18 months ago and the fact I'm a healthy, fairly sane family man is not going to make it into the Chopper routine.

"I mean, you can't have Chopper saying, 'Ah, bloody kids, aren't they terrific and I love changing nappies'.

"I have to admit the more I find out about the real Chopper, the more depressing it gets.

"I don't think even he knows where the facts end and the fiction begins any more. There are so many half-truths and embellishments."


See it

"The (s)Hitlist, starring Heath Franklin's Chopper", will be performed at these venues:

Regent Theatre, Dunedin, tonight, 7.30pm.

Civic Theatre, Invercargill, tomorrow, 7.30pm.

Arrowtown Hall, Tuesday, November 20, 7.30pm and at 9.30pm (additional show added).

Oamaru Opera House, Wednesday, November 21, 7.30pm.

Theatre Royal, Timaru, Thursday, November 22, 7.30pm.