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Heath Franklin. Picture: Supplied

As one of Australia's favourite modern comedy characters, "Chopper" lost count at 200 shows in his first year alone. So what happens when the infamous underworld character shaves off his handlebar moustache and gets his tatts lasered off to make it as the comedian beneath, Heath Franklin?

"Hopefully not much," Franklin laughs from his home in Sydney as his young son chirps away in the background.

"Chopper and I are not as different as I'd like, really, so hopefully the transition will be smoother than lasering off those tattoos. That was painful!"

While the easy-going family man has played Perth many times as Chopper, his new show Heath Franklin: May I Borrow a Crisis? marks both his first as himself and his maiden performance at Perth's Fringe World festival.

"I did some warm-up shows in Sydney but it's still pretty new territory and I can't wait to see what people think in Perth."

May I Borrow a Crisis? plays on Franklin's real life as "a pretty average, conservative, suburban Aussie bloke" who has never had to face a major crisis. Instead, he'll call on audiences to share a big life crisis and spin it into comedy gold.

"Breakups, relationships, secrets - it's all fair game for me! The juicier the better."

So why has Franklin sent his celebrity gangsters to the bench, and does it have anything to do Chopper's death last October? "It has nothing to do with Chopper himself," Franklin says. "We never really knew each other.

"It's more that I've been doing Chopper for eight years now. I've been putting on the moustache, the navy pants and the polo shirt to go to work. So I thought 'Why not?'

Indeed, Franklin admits the red flag came when he began waking up in cold sweats and realising "this whole other person and his language" had almost taken over.

"The other part is that while he's a pretty incredible character, there's only so much I can say as Chopper.

"Away from Chopper, I have a lot of stupid, idiotic thoughts in my head that have never had a chance to come out. I've led a whole other life."

Not that Franklin is fully retiring his polite potty-mouth gangster entirely. In fact, he's hosting a weekend full of adults-only late shows at the fringe eloquently entitled Chopper's Big F**ken Late Show.

"At this stage there's no real plan to put Chopper away forever," Franklin muses. "It's still something I get a real buzz doing. But it's like a divorce. I have to figure out what I get and what Chopper gets. And at the moment, we've got to keep sharing it.

"But the comforting thing is that if it all starts going to hell, I've got eight years worth of Chopper material I can pull out!"