Monday, 30 July 2007

“I am an anal impressionist”

by Thaddeus Sholto

“He also found time to father three children. They joined the act, performing charming little dances to their father’s accompaniment. A tasteful, delicate performance that, today, would give a child psychologist nightmares.”
Were they not so transient, a man's farts could be used to identify him with the accuracy of fingerprinting. From the light odour of his morning thunder, to a heavy bacterial bean-fart or a beery evening blow-off, his flatus asserts unerasable personality. In a blind smell test, a farter's blindfolded wife could pick him out of a crowd of thousands. And then, in all probability, she would berate him for being so disgusting. Needlessly. Whilst most fellows enjoy dropping a sulphur bomb, notably if they happen to be exiting crowded lifts, underground trains or any other compartment that will seal in other people with both the smell and the blame, there is a sadly undeniable taboo attached to farting. Some trace this back to Roman times, citing Flavius Josephus's account in The Wars of the Jews of the soldier who raised his clothes and farted at the Feast of Unleavened Bread: the profanity enraged the Jews so much that it caused a riot in which thousands were killed. Others plump for the tale of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, who was supposedly so mortified after letting rip in Queen Elizabeth I's presence that he vanished into self-imposed exile for seven years.

Such shame in farting has not always been de rigeur. Indeed, some fine men have not only relished the chance to assert their personalities through farting, but have raised the function to an art form. St Augustine was an early witness of such individuals, recording in the City of God that there were those:

...who can at will, and without any odour, produce such a variety of sounds from their anus that they seem to be singing in that part.

Fine party tricks from those children of God, but Augustine does not tell us whether they exploited their flatulence for cash. If they didn't, they missed a trick: by the 13th century one Roland le Pettour held the manor of Hemingstone, Suffolk, from the King - in return for a very unusual rent:

Seriantia que quondam fuit Rollandi le Pettour in Hemingeston in comitatu Suff’, pro qua debuit facere die Natali Domini singulis annis coram domino rege unum saltum et sifflettum et unum bumbulum, que alienata fuit per particulas subscriptas.

The following (lands), which formerly were held of Roland the Farter in Hemingston in the county of Suffolk, for which he was obliged to perform every year on the birthday of our Lord before his master the king, one jump, one whistle, and one fart, were alienated in accordance with these specific requirements

(Liber Feodorum)
All these men, though, pale into insignificance when compared to the master, Joseph Pujol, the farting Frenchman from Marseilles. Known as Le Pétomane (aha, now le Pettour's name makes sense too), Pujol would fart at will before the late 19th century audiences at the Moulin Rouge. He could fart the Marseillaise. He could imitate the sound of cannon fire. He could play the flute by farting through a rubber tube. He imitated the farts of little girls, mothers-in-law and masons (dry - no cement). He gave impresssions of a dressmaker ripping two yards of calico. He could smoke with his back passage. And for all of this, he was paid handsomely and widely adored.

How so?

The answer lies partly in good luck, and partly in Pujol's willingness to use those talents nature had given him. As a soldier he would entertain his fellows by sucking in seawater through his anus, and then firing it out again in a powerful stream. Thereafter, he experimented with air rather than water, delighting his contemporaries with his increasing repertoire of sounds and leading him to adopt the nickname Le Pétomane, or “The Fartiste”.

His big break came in 1892 when he walked into the office belonging to the Director of the Moulin Rouge, announcing: “I am Le Pétomane, and I want an engagement in your establishment”. When asked by the Director for an explanation, he replied:

“You see, sir, my anus is of such elasticity that I can open and shut it at will. . . . I can absorb any quantity of liquid I may be given. . .[and] I can expel an almost infinite quantity of odorless gas.”

After a short demonstration, Pujol was hired and performed that very same night. His success was so great that several tighly-corseted women fainted from laughing so hard.

Indeed, Le Pétomane made farting so respectable that he not only developed his act to incorporate his children (they danced), but he also performed in front of the future King Edward VII and the King of the Belgians.

Little Men: it is time to follow in the wake of Le Pétomane and to fart with pride. And if your wife protests, show her this instructional film. When she has finished laughing you can look forward to a happily flatulent future life.


Pritchard Buckminster said...

Ah, the fart. Possibly greater than genetics or physiognomy in defining the essential difference between men and women. To us, an impromtu performance of body art, a swift riposte or even, thanks to my good friend often referred to as the small Scottish one, an entire best man's speech. To them, a disgusting thing which, most importantly, they do not do!!

Can we explore the subtlety of fragance, the nuance of noise, the application of the 'Dutch Oven', when to take a 'Gentleman's Meander' or the heart rate raising excitement of being in a lift post curry/beer night? No need, no need. You all know and understand.

Farts are funny. This is not even open to debate. To any women who is prepared to raise a buttock for a 'one cheek sneak' or let rip as a canvas tent at dawn I salute you, welcome to the human race.


Charles Pooter said...

I'm spotting a theme to your posts. From the Profanisaurus, here are some popular ripostes to another's air biscuit:

"Keep shouting sir, we'll find you."

"Speak up caller, you're through."

"A bit more choke and she would have started."

"You'll have to buy that now, you've ripped it."

"That's working, now try your lights."

"Speak on, sweet lips that never told a lie."

"Well struck sir."

"An excellent theory, Dr Watson."

Thaddeus Sholto said...

Yes, it's true: my enthusiasms veer towards to the vulgar and bawdy. But if Chaucer found farting funny, that's good enough for me.

This Nicholas anon leet fle a fart,
As greet as it had been a thonder-dent,
That with the strook he was almoost yblent