When Chris Franklin first appeared on the scene, it clearly marked the return of the âocker bastard yobâ comedy persona â following on from the likes of Bazza McKenzie, Hoges, Crocodile Dundee. So it was the perfect title for my first interview with him.
Some time later, after that initial flush of success, Chris was back, either touring or with a new single. I interviewed him again. And noting his return, I came up with the perfect title: Return of the Ocker Yob Bastard. It was a great idea for a title; Iâd just somehow managed to not realise that Iâd used it before.
Chris thought it was a cack, and when I interviewed him a third time, he encouraged me to use it again. This time, I was fully aware, and tried to go with a self-conscious acknowledgement that I had mistakenly used the same title. I took a leaf out of Frank Zappaâs book, who likes to tip his hat at b-grade horror movie motifs: those initial three albums of guitar solos were called Shut Up And Play Your Guitar, Shut Up And Play Your Guitar Some More, and, most importantly, The Return Of The Son Of Shut Up And Play Your Guitar.
So the third Chris Franklin interview should have been called The Return of the Son of the Ocker Bastard Yob. The editors didnât share my particularly idiosyncratic, Zappafied view of the world. So it went to print as, you guessed it, Return of the Ocker Bastard.
But most of this is irrelevant, since what Iâm presenting here is my first ever interview with Chris Franklin. It was undertaken at a time when Barry Humphries â creator of Barry McKenzie â was visiting Australia.
Barry Humphries once pointed out that Sydney was a city whose inhabitants were inclined to eat while walking down the street, a city whose lifts often bore the aroma of sausage roll and tomato sauce. How fitting that Humphries is currently in Sydney, for if his observation were ever true, it is certainly moreso now with Melbourne comic Chris Franklin in town.
Wearer of flannelette shirts, blue singlets, thongs and a beanie, owner of sun-damaged skin, a mullet and unkempt facial hair, Franklin follows a long line of comics who embody the ocker bastard yob persona. However, Chris Franklin is more than that. With his quick wit and pithy observation, he is the thinking manâs drinking man. He is also the drinking manâs thinking man. His career is still on a steep trajectory: in the brief fifteen months during which he has been in the game he has won such accolades as âBest New Comedian in Australiaâ in the National Triple J Raw Comedy competition, âBest Up & Coming Comedianâ in the 1997 PBS Radio Awards and has taken out the National Green Faces competition in Canberra.
A former naval chef (that is, cooker for the navy rather than cooker of belly buttons) who has helped prepare a fine sea food repast for one of Her Royal Highness the Queenâs visits (itâs not his fault nobody bothered to warn them that Elizabeth Windsor is allergic to seafood), a former paver and all-round beer enthusiast, Franklin claims that he âstill hasnât decidedâ to make comedy his career. âItâs been decided for me and Iâm pretty happy with that.â
Chris still thinks that the idea of being payed to get drunk and talk to people, indeed, to be flown around the country to be paid to get drunk and talk to people, is pretty cool. âBefore that started happening, I was doing the same thing. Only Iâd be paying for the beer.â
Chris came to comedy by recognising comedian Chris Bennett in Edwardâs Tavern, in Prahran, Victoria. the night after Bennett had appeared on Hey, Hey Itâs Saturday. âI thought, âthatâs that funny blokeâ,â Chris says. âI decided to go over and annoy him for the next eight hours!â Chris Franklin spent the rest of the evening giving Chris Bennett pointers, the way drunken punters are wont to do to professional comics: âHereâs one you can use, hereâs one you can use, hereâs another one you can use, hereâs a song I sing.â The comic eventually invited the punter to his next gig. Upon Franklinâs appearance, Bennett informed him it was a good thing heâd arrived, he was due on stage any minute. Thus Chris Franklin made his debut as an open mike comic, delivering for his virgin âfive minuteâ slot nearly twenty minutes of vintage Col Elliott jokes.
âThankfully it was a young audience who didnât know the jokes, and enjoyed them. During the whole time Iâm up there I can hear Bennett standing in the wings going, âHereâs one you can use, hereâs one you can use, and hereâs one you can use.â But the crowd loved it, and I came off stage and said to the guy who books acts, âHow f*ck*n good was that?â He said, âyeah, it wasnât too bad. Just, next time, write your own stuff.ââ
Chris Franklin was an âaccidentâ born eight years after the youngest of his two sisters. He was brought up in a close-knit family. âMumâs got four brothers and three sisters who are all married with grown-up children themselves,â he says. âThat whole nucleus is like a mafia.â While Chris grew up listening to Col Elliott with his dad, his mum used to wake him up âat 11 oâclock at night on a school nightâ to watch Monty Pythonâs Flying Circus. âSheâs very comedy orientated,â he says. âSheâs a good old bird, my mum!â Chris knows his mother is proud of him because she keeps all of his press clippings. She wonât tell him herself, however, most probably because of routines are coarse and close to the bone. âA lot of my stories are about family members,â Chris admits. âIâve been doing them for years without getting paid for it.â
Franklinâs fan-base may be fellow flannelette-wearers, but he enjoys playing posh venues because the patrons look at the guy in the thongs and beanie with distrust â until they realise that heâs the man theyâve payed to see. âThey think Iâm going to rape their mobile phones or pinch their girlfriends,â Chris laughs. âAt the end of the night they come up to me in their ties and suits and everything and try to be cool: âexcuse me Chris, my sister was engaged to someone whose brother knew someone who lived in the same street as a Westy once.â I go, âyeah, good on you mate, buy me a beer.ââ More often than not, they do.