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