The Art of Passing Gas

The following is an article from The Best of The Best of Uncle John's Bathroom Reader.

The Papal Belvedere by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1545), showing German peasants farting at the pope.

It used to be that no one talked about farts … now, it's no big deal. You can't get away from it. Which is fine by us. Here we honor people who have made an art out of passing gas. (By the way - if this is your favorite part of the book, we recommend a tome called Who Cut the Cheese, by Jim Dawson.)  

Honorees: Simon Brassell, Karen Chin, and Robert Harman

Notable Achievement: Finding a way to discuss dinosaur farts without making people laugh

True Story: In 1991, the three scientists published a paper proposing that millions of year's worth of dinosaur farts may have helped make the Earth more hospitable for humans and other mammals. How? The methane gas passed by dinosaurs during the Cretaceous period, they suggested, "may have been a contributor to global warming."

Honoree: King Louis XIV of France

Notable Achievement: Turning a fart into a compliment

True Story: "It is said," Frank O'Neil writes in The Mammoth Book of Oddities, "that Louis XIV expressed his admiration for the Duchess of Orleans, by doing her the honor of breaking wind in her presence."

Honoree: Randy Maresh, an employee at an Albertson's supermarket in Gresham, Oregon

Notable Achievement: Making someone so mad at his farting that they sued him

True Story: In the mis-1990s, Tom Morgan sued co-worker Randy Maresh for $100,000, claiming in court papers that Maresh "would continually and repeatedly seek out the plaintiff on the premises of Albertson's [supermarket] while plaintiff was engaged in his employee duties. That defendant, after locating plaintiff, would position himself in the proximity of plaintiff so as to direct his 'gas' toward plaintiff." (In his written response to the suit, Maresh's lawyer argued that farts are "expressive behavior," and as such, are protected by the First Amendment.) No word on the outcome. [Note by editor: Case was dismissed]

Honoree: Dr. Michael Levitt of Minneapolis, Minnesota

Notable Achievement: Inventing a Breathalyzer-type test that can detect propensity for excessive farting

True Story: Dr. Levitt's test checks for elevated levels of hydrogen in a patient's breath. If it's there, the patient is likely to be gassy. (Not everyone is impressed with Dr. Levitt's scientific breakthrough: "If Levitt is checking his patients' breath for flatulence," Jeffrey Kluger writes in Discover magazine, "I wouldn't even ask how he's propose to conduct dental work.")

Honoree: Canelos Indians of Ecuador

Notable Achievement: Turning a fart into a supernatural experience … and a free meal

True Story: "The Canelos Indians," Eric Rabkin writes in It's a Gas, "are particularly scared by their farts because they believe the soul escapes the body along with the smell. They have developed a ritual to counter this escape. When in a group someone breaks wind, one of the rest, the quickest, will clap him on the back three times and say, "Uianza, uianza!' The meaning of this word is unknown but it does signify a feast by that name which the person who farted is obliged to prepare ... Alternatively, he can discharge his obligation by rewarding the clapper's kindness with three big clay vessels of manioc beer."

Honoree: Ned Lowenbach, assistant district attorney in Tuolumne County, California

Notable Achievement: Using farts as a legal strategy

True Story: In 1988 a defense attorney appealed his client's conviction, protesting that Lowenbach had disrupted trial proceedings by passing gas. "He farted about one hundred times," the attorney said. "He even lifted his leg a few times."


Reprinted with permission from The Best of the Best of Uncle John's Bathroom Reader. The Bathroom Reader Institute handpicked the most eye-opening, rib-tickling, and mind-boggling articles from everything they have written over the last ten years and carefully crammed them into 576 pages of the book.

Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute has published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts.

Check out their website here: Bathroom Reader Institute.

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There's a film about Joseph Pujol, starring the great and sadly departed Ugo Tognazzi .. it's called 'Il Petomane', in Italian, there are clips on Youtube.
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Don't forget Joseph Pujol, the 'Petomane de Paris'.
With his shows in the Moulin Rouge, he became the best payed artist of his time, grossing more than the –then famous– actress Sarah Bernard.

He caused riots and people are said to have died laughing.
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