The King of Farts

The following is an article from Uncle John's Legendary Lost Bathroom Reader.

Just when you think you've heard it all... someone comes up with something like this. It's from a little book called It's A Gas, by Eugene Silverman, MD, and Eric Rabkni, PhD. It's required reading for BRI history buffs.

In all fairness to the farters of the world, the greatest of them all was not by his passing of gas also passing a judgment. His completely conscious control of his abilities was confirmed by numerous chemical examinations, including two in published form. This man, a hero at bottom, was a gentle and loving father, a noble and steadfast friend, a successful and generous businessman, and a great stage entertainer. This unique individual, a phenomenon among phenomena, this explosive personality and credit to our subject, was christened Joseph Pujol, but invented for himself the name by which all history knows him: Le Petomane!


Le Petomane could fart as often and as frequently as he wished. His farts were odorless. As other people use their mouths, Le Petomane had learned to use his anus. Furthermore, by constricting or loosening his anus he could vary the pitch of the air he expelled and by controlling the force of abdominal contractions he could control its loudness. With these two fundamental tools, simple enough but rarely seen, Le Petomane contrived not only to imitate a variety of farts, but also to make music.

He headlined at the Moulin Rouge in Paris, the most famous nightclub in the world at that time, and brought in box office receipts more than twice as high as those of the angelic Sarah Bernhardt. He was one of the greatest comedians of the turn of the century The manager of the Moulin Rouge kept nurses in the theater to tend to female customers whose uncontrolled laughter in tight corsets often caused them to pass out as Le Petomane passed gas. Here was not a court fool at all, but the toast of civilized society.


As a boy, Joseph had had a frightening experience in the sea. Holding his breath and ducking under water, he suddenly felt a rush of cold water enter his bowels. He went to find his mother but was embarrassed to see water running out of himself. Although he recounted this in later years, apparently as a child he tried to keep his terrifying experience a secret.

Early in his married life he was called to military service and in the all-male atmosphere of the barracks he recounted for the first time his strange experience in the sea. When asked for a demonstration, he agreed to try again. On their next furlough, he and his unit went to the sea. He did succeed in taking water in and then letting it out. This might have been viewed as mere freakishness, but combined with Joseph's gentleness and good humor, it struck the soldiers as a delightful feat.

Pujol, using a basin, practiced this art in private with water and, once able to control the intake and outflow by combined exertions of his anal and abdominal muscles, he soon began to practice with air as well. This, of course, was only for his own amusement and the occasional amusement of his fellow soldiers.


When he returned home, he resumed his life as a baker and father but added to it his new found love of entertainment. He began to work part-time in music halls as an ordinary singer, as a trombone player, and soon as a quick-change artist with a different costume for each song. He added comic routines of his own writing to his singing and playing acts, and became quite popular locally.

At the same time, he began to turn his special ability into an act, learning to give farts as imitations. Soon his friends urged him to add this to his act but he was diffident about the propriety of such a thing. In order to give it a try, he rented a theater of his own. He was an almost instant success. He left the bakery in care of his family and went to a number of provincial capitals, and at each stop Le Petomane played to packed houses. Finally, in 1892, he blew into Paris.


The Moulin Rouge was his aim-and he went right for it. The manager of the Moulin Rouge, one Oller, on hearing of Le Petomane's specialty, was astounded at Pujol's audacity but agreed to give him an audition. In Paris as in Marseilles, the act was an instant success.


Le Petomane would begin by walking around dressed quite elegantly in silks and starched white linen, a thorough swell.

After his opening monologue Le Petomane leaned forward, hands on knees, turned his back to the audience, and began his imitations. "This one is a little girl," he would say and emit a delicate, tiny fart. "This one is a mother-in-law," he'd say, and there would be a slide. "This is a bride on her wedding night," very demure indeed, "and this is the morning after," a long, loud one. Then he would do a dressmaker tearing two yards of calico, letting out a crackling, staccato fart that lasted at least ten seconds, and then cannonfire, thunder, and so on. The public loved the act and the Moulin Rouge gave him an immediate contract. In short time, he was their headliner.


His act grew with his popularity. Among other feats he could mix into the performance were tricks dependent upon inserting a rubber tube into his rectum (very decorously passed through his pocket). With this tube he could amiably chat away while at the same time smoking a cigarette. Sometimes he would insert a six-stop flute into the tube and accompany his own singing. A few simple nursery tunes he could play without recourse to the tube at all. And finally he would almost always end his acts by blowing out a few of the gas-fired footlights. All that was left, before rising and bowing out, was to invite the audience to join him-and they did with gusto, their own convulsed abdomens insuring that many of the patrons could indeed participate in the group farting at the appropriate moment.


The management of the Moulin Rouge wanted Le Petomane to submit to a medical examination so that his authenticity would be even more accepted, and this he did. For similar reasons of believability, Oller allowed Pujol to give private performances for all-male audiences at which he could perform wearing pants with an appropriate cut-out.

Before these events, and before his regular performances as well, he thoroughly washed himself by drawing water in and then shooting it out. In the smaller groups he would extinguish a candle at the distance of a foot and demonstrate his water jet over a range of four or five yards. These distances are also corroborated by medical observation.


The Moulin Rouge, acting as Le Petomane's agent, also encouraged him to travel abroad. In other European countries, and especially in Belgium, he was a star attraction. At his private performances in France, where no admission was charged, Pujol would finish by passing the hat. At one of these gatherings a man leaned forward and put a 20 louis gold piece in the hat and told him to keep it, that the show was worth it even though he had to travel from Brussels to see it. He had heard so much about Le Petomane but could not see him in Belgium because his own movements were so closely watched there. So he had come to Paris that night incognito to see and hear the great Le Petomane. He was King Leopold II of Belgium.


The Medical Facility at the Sorbonne offered Pujol 25,000 francs for the right to examine his body after his death. He was a vigorous man, a proud patriarch, and, knowing what such a sum could mean to his children and grandchildren, he accepted. But, despite the fact that he had distinguished himself by publicly displaying himself for so many years, he was held in such high regard by those around him that, on his peaceful demise in 1945 at the age of 88, the family refused the offer. And so, having made flatulence a subject not for aggression but for pleasantry, Joseph Pujol, the greatest farter in history, came to his proper end.


A profound poem by Sir John Suckling, 17th century cavalier poet:

Love is the fart
of every heart
For when held in,
doth pain the host,
But when released,
Pains others most


The article above is reprinted with permission from Uncle John's Legendary Lost Bathroom Reader.

This special edition book covers the three "lost" Bathroom Readers - Uncle John's 5th, 6th and 7th book all in one. The huge (and hugely entertaining) volume covers neat stories like the Strange Fate of the Dodo Bird, the Secrets of Mona Lisa, and more ...

Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute had 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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Turns out that he was of Catalan ascent (Pujol is a known catalan surname). His parents migrated to Marseille from Mataró, a city near Barcelona. This is funny because Catalan culture is said to be scatological.

Another bit of trivia: the regent of the Moulin Rouge at that time, who signed in Pujol for the show, was also Catalan (from the city of Reus).
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