Get some slippery soap

2009-04-03 00:00

Do you ever get the urge to feel presidential? If so, then maybe you’re a candidate for a bottle of Zuma Shower Gel, the latest offering from the irreverent Laugh it Off team.

Best known for their reputation as “shirt-stirrers” for their controversial T-shirts spoofing South African individuals and companies, Laugh it Off have come up with a shower gel ahead of this month’s national elections.

“It sells for about R80 and is made in association with the Cape-based company, Aromatic Apothecary. It works really well and smells like After Eight Mints,” said Laugh it Off proprietor Justin Nurse in an interview with The Witness this week.

Nurse said the collaboration came about when Laugh it Off and Aromatic Apothecary - which manufactures homeopathic soaps and other products - found themselves alongside each other in their product stalls at the Grahamstown Festival.

“We were selling T-shirts at the festival. For a few years, we have been selling next to them. We suggested they test a co-branding project and that we should try a Zuma shower gel,” said Nurse.

The idea took root and two months later, the product was on the shelves of the Big Blue Stores in Gauteng and the Cape. In Durban, a shop called Mooi is stocking the gel. Nurse said Big Blue has, so far, sold about 800 bottles.

The gel is advertised as being “for all skin types”.

Laugh it Off has already produced a Zuma T-shirt featuring the same logo as the gel.

Asked whether he has had any response from Zuma supporters, Nurse said: “Yes, when we launched the Zuma T-shirt, we received a phone call from someone from the ANC Youth League who said we should not be doing this. We ignored the call.”

Asked whether he has sent Zuma a bottle of Zuma shower gel, Nurse said, “No”. However, he will send Zuma a copy of the picture depicting the ANC leader which will be used in Laugh it Off’s “Corpowit Calendar”.

“It should ruffle a few feathers, no doubt,” was all Nurse would say.

Nurse, who was born in Cape Town and studied Journalism and Politics at Rhodes University, started producing satirical T-shirts that spoofed famous brands while he was still at university.

The enterprise resulted in the establishment of Laugh it Off. The company made the headlines in 2001 when SAB Miller slapped a lawsuit against it, claiming that Laugh It Off’s parody of the Black Label beer brand was an infringement of its trademark. The offending T-shirt had altered the beer’s slogan “Black Label, Carling Beer” to read: “Black Labour, White Guilt”.

After a lengthy battle that went all the way to the Constitutional Court, Laugh It Off won its case in 2005. The Constitutional Court found Nurse’s T-shirts were satirical and his right to freedom of speech outweighed the SA Breweries trade mark.

Ever the controversialist, Nurse made waves when his case was being heard in the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein and he was caught having his photograph taken behind the chief justice’s chair.

He then put his picture up among those of the judges in the Constitutional Court — placing his photograph next to that of retired judge Richard Goldstone. His photograph remained in place for a few days before being discovered by a security guard.

Laugh it Off has also published a collection of poetry by Kgafela oa Magogodi as well as the popular Laugh It Off Annuals, which feature graphic design, short stories, poetry, cartoons, as well as interviews, photography, and articles from established literary figures.

Nurse said Laugh it Off is also producing a calendar that spoofs Zuma, Julius Malema, SAA and Telkom, among other South African infamous icons.

They have also shot a viral video, he said. “We are also working on a new Laugh it Off Annual, as well as a book on 2010 for FNB.”

Laugh it Off is also currently working on a second Zuma T-shirt, which features Zuma as a ninja turtle. The calendars will be available ahead of the elections at the same outlets as the gel.

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