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The silencer and the fury

With one finger raised at pretty much everything and the other paddling in the zeitgeist, Ozzie comedian Chopper is on his way here with something to say about chatter, babble and other mass media noise.

Exploring a narrative about people's ever-expanding need to share their opinions, Chopper, based on the character of Australian criminal Mark Read, and played by comedian Heath Franklin, feels the need for a conversation to empower . . .


It's just that sort of bath temperature, social-media-grade blather Australasia's favourite bogan wants to hear shut the f*** up and is about to broadcast the news in his new show, The Silencer.

“I think for the most part there is a lot of noise and confusion in the world,” says Franklin, Chopper's creator and reasonable alter-ego.

“This is Chopper's way to tell people to sit back and enjoy stuff and stop shouting opinions into the void.”

Anti-vaxxers, lockdowns, Karens, cancel culture, snowflakes, trolls and Mr Potatohead — the outrage is deafening.

“The main thing I've found strange in the past decade is the need to give opinions on every subject all the time. Experts are drowned out by the noise.”

Franklin is probably best known in New Zealand for his guest appearances on the partly scripted, partly improvised, satirical TV panel show, 7 Days.

So how much of The Silencer is scripted and how much is about just bouncing off the audience?

Lockdown in Australia has meant he has spent a lot of time walking around and gestating jokes.

“The best ideas form slowly in your brain. You don't go looking for them, they find you. After I get a bunch of jokes I jump in front of an audience. I spent a long time writing this material but I find that when standing in front of an audience a joke might come to mind and I'll go with it.

“Last night I checked in with a few jokes that came to me in the moment from stuff from the audience. I have a plan but I don't have to stick with it.”

He used to try to be Daniel Day Lewis, he says of the Gangs of New York star who took method acting to the extreme and became his character long before filming began. Franklin would spend a lot of time getting into character.

“I used to get nervous. There was a point where I realised that wasn't useful. I had a conversation with myself to say ‘it doesn't help, you're better off getting rid of the nerves'.”

He made a conscious decision not to get nervous on stage.

“If you own the stage they're not going to question you,” he says.

“There is an arrogance to marching onstage and saying ‘listen up'.

Now, he can switch Chopper on and off at will and even gives journalists the option of interviewing Franklin or Chopper.

In his younger years Franklin never thought about becoming a comedian as a viable career.

“I was aware some people do it as a career but I didn't know how they got there.”

While at university he joined a drama club and got involved in comedy.

“I didn't believe it would be my job until I was getting paid for it.”

After that he committed himself to making it in the industry.

Franklin's comically brash, potty-mouthed, frighteningly articulate alter-ego came about after watching the 2000 Australian movie, Chopper, based on the autobiographical books by Mark “Chopper” Read.

“I watched it so much I'd quote it with my friends. The girl I was with at the time, now my wife, said ‘why don't you do something with that Chopper impersonation'.”

• Chopper, The Silencer, War Memorial Theatre, Thursday, July 8, 7.30pm. Tickets from Gisborne i-SITE or ticketek

THE SILENCER: 'If you've never seen a Chopper show, go, because what's your excuse?' says Australian comedian, Heath Franklin whose alter-ego, Chopper is about to blow into Gisborne with his new show, The Silencer. Picture supplied