Australian comedian Heath Franklin - aka Chopper - regularly crosses the Tasman to appear on the TV show 7 Days. He's touring New Zealand, which, he says, is laid-back and not full of alpha males. 'It's everything that Australia prides itself on being, but doesn't quite execute.'
1. If Heath were to heckle Chopper, what would he say?
One of my lifelong dreams is to heckle, but every time I feel too sympathetic for the guy up there. One of the best heckles I've heard was at the NZ Comedy Festival. It wasn't aimed at me, but the guy in the audience said, 'You're lying', to everything. So the comedian would start with 'I was down at the shops today ...' and you'd hear from the audience, 'You're lying'. It was a perfect and really effective roadblock.
2. What is the most exquisite profanity and how do you like to use it - in what circumstances?
The c-bomb is the final solution really. It's like the red button in a nuclear war, the c word. It's a very confronting word. You don't want to pull it out when you're performing all the time. There is a vein of language I've dispensed with. Part of the thing with comedians is you use language to creative a vivid image out of something, to make an immediate point. But you have to be careful with context. I had this odd epiphany recently when I was writing set lists with bullet points and I had 'anal bleaching'. I thought, here I am, in this very strange land.
3. Can you provide a brilliant rejoinder, a phrase that expresses your total exasperation with someone or something, that doesn't involve profanities?
In a road rage situation I might question the purity of someone's lineage with regards to incest. I might ask whether they've dropped out of a spaceship or a moving van.
4. What typical Australian characteristic or trait do you least like?
I was walking home from the Fringe Festival in Adelaide and there was this guy with his shirt over his head, urinating into a bath, but standing outside. So from the outside in. I was shocked. I thought, when did that get to be okay? Totally surrendering yourself and responsibility after you've had a few drinks? Why can't you just have a couple of drinks? Or it's guys humping traffic cones or yelling abuse and fighting phone boxes. I assumed you grew out of that. It's symptomatic of being in the city on a Friday night. I really avoid that these days.
5. What do you least like about New Zealand?
My family's not here. The thing with touring wonderful places is you don't have a chance to see them really. We travelled from Picton to Christchurch and went past Kaikoura. I thought, I'm coming back here. It's like being rushed through an art gallery.
6. How important is your ego and how much of an obstacle is it?
Confidence is a massive factor in what I do. If you have a bad show it can lead to three bad shows. It's about keeping your ego in the right place. I try not to read reviews. You might read one and think, whatever, but then you wake up at four in the morning and you're thinking, 'What if he's right? What if it was crap?'
7. When are you reflective?
When I'm alone. Everything turns a bit inward. If I'm alone too much it's to my detriment. I'm addicted to company.
8. Do you ever feel vulnerable on stage?
I feel vulnerable when I'm away from my family. I feel pretty upside down. I've got a son and another one on the way and it gets difficult to be away. You get back and he's grown hair or a tooth. The reality is you can either be poor and at home or on the road and earning a living.
9.When are you melancholic?
In empty hotel rooms. They're the bleakest moments. I have a morbid fear of hotel rooms.
10. Define poetry? Where do you see it?
The thing with language - what I admire - is people who have incredible word economy. An entire image is delivered right into your mind's eye. It's the holy grail of what I'm trying to do. To bend language and articulate points well.
11. When have you crossed the threshold from outrageous and funny to offensive?
The closest I've ever come to being offensive was when this person in the audience was really drunk and shouting. When someone starts shouting at other people's expense then it's ruining the show. I'm not supposed to get rattled. But I did. I was tired, it was the end of the tour and I was emotionally tired. He got to me and I unloaded. I said things like 'I hope bad things happen to you; I hope you get hit by a bus when you leave'. Dark things. You can't make jokes after something like that.
12. How will you be making the people of Christchurch laugh?
The thing with sensitive topics is that you don't want to stumble and have it all blow up in your face. I love seeing a comedian subtly tiptoe out, having relieved all the tension while not being offensive. Look the sacred cow right in the face, and then give it a gentle pat.