Magazine article The New Yorker

Pitching Rubbers; Dept. of Prevention

Magazine article The New Yorker

Pitching Rubbers; Dept. of Prevention

Article excerpt

"We really need to destigmatize the condom," Brent Quinn said the other day, as he sipped from a Margarita. "Let's make the condom lovable. It's kind of a crap word. If you say, 'Hey, have you got an Amigo?' it's a bit more lovable."

Quinn, who is forty-five, is a South African screenwriter and comic who recently started an unlikely humor campaign to stop the spread of aids. He was talking about it at a burrito joint downtown shortly before returning to Johannesburg, following a week of meetings, in Washington and New York, with various government and international organizations: unicef, the State Department, the World Health Organization, the World Bank. Quinn and his business partner, the Canadian television producer Firdaus Kharas, were seeking funding for worldwide distribution of their new media project, The Three Amigos, which has become a cult sensation in South Africa.

The Three Amigos are talking prophylactics. They have been appearing for the past few months, as often as twenty times a day, in a series of animated public-service announcements on the South African Broadcasting Corporation. Their names are Shaft, Dick, and Stretch. Shaft is tall and black, and wears a backward-facing baseball cap. He speaks in a deep baritone. Dick is white, with an open Hawaiian shirt, and he talks like a surfer dude. Stretch is short, squat, and blue, with a Hispanic-sounding voice. (Quinn is partial to Stretch, whom he calls "an eager little chap.") Each of them cares principally about getting laid. According to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Amigos are "wonderfully human-like characters."

"Essentially, they're these three amigos going on adventures," Quinn said. "The comedy is driven by three mates in a sort of contaminated war zone, out to get lucky." The Amigos' adventures--depicted in short cartoons ranging from fifteen seconds to one minute, and from tot-friendly to steamy--include space travel (punch line: "No condom, no blastoff"), soccer ("You just can't score without a condom"), an African safari ("It's a jungle out there--carry protection"), and bungee jumping ("Never make a leap of faith--always wear a condom"). They even have a sister, Femidom, a siren who lives in a pond in a mystical forest. …

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