Laughing Chopper stabs at hate-list

HANNAH FLEMING
Last updated 08:03 06/11/2012
tdn chopper stand
Heath Franklin aka Chopper

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Every now and then, people misunderstand what Heath Franklin's all about.

The Australian comedian makes a living out of impersonating one of his country's most notorious criminals, Chopper Read.

And his choice of character means sideways glances are often flashed in his direction.

"Every now and then I appear somewhere, or speak to someone on the radio, and everyone gets all 'I can't believe you would endorse that psycho's behaviour by interviewing him'," Franklin said.

"Then it has to be explained that it wasn't him, it was the other one. The laughing one, not the stabbing one."

The 7 Days regular says he has come to find those who misunderstand him, generally misunderstand a lot of things, so trying to set them straight would require too much time and effort.

Although he dresses and talks like the original criminal, the Australian Logie and Aria award-nominated comedian reckons the similarities stop there.

He had the pleasure of meeting Read in 2005, which he described as being one of the most awkward moments of his life.

"Yeah, I wouldn't say I was fortunate to meet him. It was really awkward to tell you the truth."

Read possesses an uncanny knack of making a conversation awkward and then soaking up that awkwardness, he says.

"He really enjoys other people feeling uncomfortable. It is quite a knack, which I assume he learnt in prison.

"With most people you talk about the weather or sport, or the news, but he would just clam up until you spoke about him, then give you a short answer and clam up again. Awkward."

When asked whether he thought Chopper was flattered by his impersonations or apparently didn't give a toss, Franklin went with the latter.

"Who knows," he said.

Read began his criminal career by robbing drug dealers, then graduated to kidnapping and torturing members of the criminal underworld, often using a blowtorch or bolt cutters to remove the toes of his victims.

He also once had a fellow inmate cut both of his ears off.

Franklin preferred the Eric Bana movie-version of Chopper, as opposed to the real-life stories.

"The more I found out about the real Chopper's life, the more depressing it became, so I stopped researching what he'd actually done and decided to rewrite it with a bit of fiction, which in itself is quite a Chopper thing to do," Franklin said.

"His life has always had very blurred lines between fact and fiction - I'm sure he's not even sure what happened and what got fabricated and exaggerated."

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Read has been known to make up the number of people he had killed to increase book sales, and has even admitted himself that he would "never let the truth get in the way of a good yarn".

Franklin is set to bring his Chopper act to Taranaki on Thursday, in a show titled The (s)Hitlist.

While some people have a shopping list and some have a to-do list, Chopper has a shitlist.

He describes it as being a strange way to organise your hate.

"It originated when we were on tour somewhere and we kept going to the same fast-food restaurant - which I won't name. The third time we were there we were sitting there going: 'How are we here again? This is horrible, it's been horrible every single time.'

"We decided we would put it on the shitlist and that way we wouldn't make the same mistake again."

Other items on his current shitlist include coffee tables, people who don't have toothbrushes, weird, creepy people showing themselves in public, and the Kardashians.

Franklin says he is interested to hear what is on Taranaki's people's shitlists, and is encouraging them to forward their ideas to his Facebook or Twitter. "The most interesting ones will make it into the show," he says.

He is looking forward to visiting a region he says he is "quite familiar" with, after living here for a month or two when filming Predicament.

"When I was there working on the film I had a car, so on my days off I'd have a little poke around here and there, down the beach or this, that and the other.

"It's a really nice place," he said.

THE (S)HITLIST Starring Heath Franklin's Chopper

TSB Showplace

November 8, 7.30pm

- © Fairfax NZ News

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