A packed audience at the Athenaeum didn't take much prompting to get on board with Heath Franklin's character Chopper but he gave them plenty of reasons to all the same.
From the beginning he spent a lot of time interacting with the audience and was both quick on his feet and unabashedly blunt. With people's expectations already set to dark and dirty, the ace up his sleeve proved to be how clever and well constructed the a number of the routines were, especially considering that his character could probably get away with just swearing and making lots of references to drugs and violence. Not that he avoided those types of jokes, but he went about it with a certain comedic flair that made the night irrefutably funny.
The premise of the show was his Shitlist, in order words, all the things that piss him off. His observational humour combined with his blunt and brash delivery kept the audience in hysterics with rapid-fire tags adding extra weight to his observations.
Some of the topics that got the best ripping into included baristas, the my-family car stickers and commercials branding themselves on confidence. Not exactly cutting-edge, but done very well.
The middle portion of the show slowed somewhat but only in comparison to his incredibly strong opening. Having won the audience, he continued to accumulate laughs talking about beer, miniature horses and how to express your anger in traffic.
The show finished with him quizzing an Aussie and a Kiwi, to see who would come out on top. It was clearly designed as a way to add some competition to his finale, and it gave him a way to exert himself as a domineering and unrelenting quiz master which the audience loved.
Obviously the show might be inappropriate for the easily offended, but it's a great show for any audience that can handle the material. He proved beyond doubt that he can.
This is a top hour of uproariously entertaining comedy. Heath Franklin’s comically ghastly creation is a rock-solid stand-up, a character so well cast that he seems to have an independent life, rather like Al Murray’s Pub Landlord has subsumed his creator.
The original Chopper Read is a sadistic gangster, a psychopathic dispenser of rough justice, but the comic creation is a rough diamond. He lounges on in his tracky-dacks and swears with baroque creativity, but you couldn’t call him offensive, he’s a bogan made good and with a firm moral code.
He opened with a harshly funny comment about Susan Boyle and moved into material about airplane travel but succeeded in breathing new life into these well-worn subjects. His material is the daily bread of comedy clubs the world over, stupid adverts, the Darwin awards for stupid deaths, appalling modern music, but I had heard none of it before, it was completely fresh and funny.
Franklin played with the audience’s sensibilities – the ‘look, I used to be racist...’ line immediately raised the temperature in the room and brought a frisson of anxious expectation and the show never looked back. His simple philosophy ‘Don’t be a fucktard’ is not dissimilar to Doug Stanhope’s, but it’s dished out with less vitriol and self-loathing. Chop clearly thinks of himself as good bloke, and you’re quite inclined to agree.
Rather as Al Murray has an unfortunate following of daft BNP types who don’t get that the comedy is sending up the nationalism, Chopper had a couple of beery self-parodists in the crowd who looked like they had come in character, plus some whimpering drunk fans who thought it was a double act.
These were dealt with using entertainingly sarcastic charm that was a lesson in keeping the show on track. The only slight disappointment was the audience participation segment in his ‘sitcom pilot’ which weakened an otherwise strong show. Getting the general public up on stage is rarely interesting, and I can’t bear to watch somebody being humiliated/gently embarrassed on stage if they haven’t signed up for it in the first place.
But overall, The Hard Bastard’s Guide to Life is a great hour, packed with good gags and ‘so wrong it’s right’ moments.
He may be impersonating a notorious criminal who brags about having committed violent crimes but it would seem the biting humour of Heath Franklin as Chopper Read is a bit of a crowd puller.
Hordes of Chopper fans crowded the Invercargill Civic Theatre on Sunday evening to watch him create a "shit list" - which included cyclists, Subway and weird, creepy people in crowds.
The laughter was never-ending with more "shit list" topics ranging from confidence advertisements to the New Zealand Olympic team and politicians.
Heath Franklin portrays Mark "Chopper" Read - a kidnapper, author and a man who robbed drug dealers and later progressed to kidnapping and torturing criminals.
During the show the audience heard about a frustrating text message conversation between Chopper and his mate Deadshit McMongo and his sheer dislike of coffee tables and "My Family" stickers on cars.
Two women from the audience - one Australian and one Kiwi - went head-to-head in a trans-Tasman tussle for final ownership rights of pavlova, Phar Lap and the Gold Coast. The tussle included a dry Weet-Bix eating competition and a lightning-fast question round, where competitors had no time to answer any of the questions.
The banter continued with jokes about public toilets and the renaming of the New Zealand Olympic team, which Chopper believes should be the "Brolympians", and a legitimate excuse for homicide - hearing a Christmas carol in October.
The show was non-stop laugh and I can't wait to hear the hilarious jokes he brings next time.