Becoming Chopper

Heath Franklin as Chopper Read. (Supplied)

Basing a comedy act around impersonating a man convicted multiple times for killing people might not seem like a great career move to some.

But in the early 2000s the potential implications of creating a show based on infamous (and at that stage, very much alive) criminal Chopper Read didn’t occur to then-uni student Heath Franklin until it was a little too late.

After discovering Read through the 2000 film Chopper, Franklin would often quote the movie when hanging out with his mates.

“Then I did a show at a university revue and I was like, I want to put the Chopper thing in,” Franklin said.

“If I can just borrow all the funny bits and get rid of the super dark bits from the movie, then there might be something there.”

Before he knew it, Franklin was performing as Chopper at the 2024 Melbourne Comedy Festival, drawing the interest of Channel 10 in the process.

“We did a pilot for them and eventually got a series (The Ronnie Johns Half Hour) greenlit, and I was just sort of caught up in the fact that I was on a TV show,” he said.

“But the first time that first episode went to air, just as the Chopper sketch was about to come on and I was like, oh, hang on, I bet Chopper’s got a TV.

“That was the first time I thought, oh my gosh, I’m suddenly accountable for this. But thankfully… he seemed to take it pretty well at the time.”

Having entertained audiences across Australia and overseas for nearly 20 years, Franklin said the focus of his show was “mostly just an hour of jokes about humans acting like idiots”.

“There’s a tendency now… that there’s going to be a story or a message or some philosophy or something like that,” he said.

“But I’ve never been great at that to be honest. And it’s also kind of hard if you’re playing a sociopath to have a moment at the 50-minute mark where you reflect on your feelings, because you don’t have feelings.

“So I’m just going for as many hard laughs as I can for an hour. I just want people to sit down and forget about everything and enjoy themselves and leave hopefully with aching stomach muscles and a big smile on their face.”

Heath Franklin’s Chopper Read: Not Here to F*** Spiders is at Geelong Arts Centre on Thursday, April 11.