Joseph Pujol, World Famous Farter
When asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up,” most children reply with the standard, “firefighter, police officer, teacher”. Some go less traditional with “circus performer, singer or professional athlete”. I have yet to hear a child answer with “professional farter”; yet believe it or not, this is actually the way a select few in the world have or currently do make their living. Professional farters are also referred to as flatulists or fartists, putting the “art” in “fart”. Paul Oldfield, better known as “Mr. Methane”, claims to currently be the only performing professional farter in the world. But this article isn’t about Paul, it’s about the man who inspired him, the amazing Joseph Pujol.
Young Joseph Pujol, who went on to become a world famous farter known as “Le Pétomane” (his stage name comes from the French verb “péter” combined with the suffix “mane” meaning “maniac” which literally means “fartomaniac”), discovered his unusual talent quite by accident. What was supposed to be a typical swim in the sea for the young Joseph, turned out to be a life-changing experience. While preparing to dive under the water, Joseph drew air into his lungs by taking a deep breath – but air wasn’t the only thing he drew into his body. As he inhaled, he felt icy, cold sea water flowing up his rear end. In response to this most unusual occurrence, young Joseph walked onto shore, only to discover large amounts of sea water exiting his behind. Knowing this was not normal, Joseph consulted with a doctor who assured him there was nothing medically wrong with him. Fascinated by an ability that no other boys his age had, Joseph decided to explore his unusual talent and discovered that by contracting his abdominal muscles he could suck large volumes of water up his rectum and expel it with great force. No enema required!
Impressed by this humorous ability, Joseph continued to experiment and discovered that water wasn’t the only thing he could draw up into his backside. Joseph discovered that he could “inhale” and “exhale” air through his rectum as well. In 1892, Dr. Marcel Baudouin actually measured how much Pujol could “inhale” anally- as much as two quarts of air!
The best part about this discovery was the noise he could make while expelling the air. Not only could he make a noise, he could vary the noises by controlling the speed and force of the expulsion of air, producing musical notes. He taught himself musical tunes and soon mastered them. It is a common misconception that Joseph passed intestinal gas during his performances. His farts were merely rectal air passed in and out in a very controlled manner.
It was in the army that the already aptly named Joseph Pujol was given his nickname “Le Pétomane”. He entertained his fellow soldiers first with his water trick and then with the songs he played through his “magical flute”. Joseph had always enjoyed performing but for now he saved his fartist act for close friends and family. In public, he performed only on his trombone.
After his service in the army, Joseph, an apprenticed baker, returned to Marseilles, which is where he was born on June 1, 1857, to attempt a living as a baker in his own bakeshop. He was said to make the some of the finest bran muffins in the South of France. In fact, the street on which he sold these muffins now bears his name, “rue Pujol”. It was in his bakeshop that he began to test the public’s reception of his other talent. He would sometimes imitate musical instruments using his rectal air and tell customers that he was playing them behind the counter.
It was only at the encouragement of friends that Joseph took his unusual musical act to the stage. He first performed at the Boulevard Chavre in 1887 at the age of 30, and continued performing all over France with immediate success everywhere he went. When he went to Paris in 1892, he insisted on seeing M Vidler, the director of Moulin Rouge and convinced him to let him perform. He was a success there from day 1. According to John Barber, who wrote a piece for The Stage in May of 1997,
He took the stage in a costume of red coat, a red silk collar and black satin breeches. He began by explaining each impersonation that was to follow.
This is a little girl… this is a bride on her wedding night (small noise) … the morning after (loud rasping noise) … a dressmaker tearing calico (ten seconds of ripping cloth) … and this a cannon (loud thunder).
The audience were at first astounded. Then there would be an uncontrollable laugh, followed by more until the whole audience was wriggling in their seats, convulsed. Women, bound rigid in corsets, were escorted from the hall by nurses, cleverly placed by the manager so that they could he seen in their bright white uniforms.
After signing with Moulin Rouge, Joseph moved his wife and children to Paris. Their first child was born in 1885 and then they had a child every two years for the next eighteen years. Riding the success and interest in his talents, Joseph embarked on a very successful tour throughout Europe and North Africa.
In 1894, the managers of the Moulin Rouge fined Joseph 3,000 francs for an impromptu performance he gave to help a friend who was struggling financially. This caused Joseph to part ways with the company. He opened his own company called Theatre Pompadour which included mime, magic and other variety acts performed by his family and performer friends. He continued to be the star attraction there until World War I broke out.
Four if his sons went off to fight in the war. One was taken prisoner and two became invalids. This shattered the lovable family man so much he had no desire to perform anymore. So he and his family moved back to Marseilles where he and his sons and unmarried daughters ran bakeries. In 1922, the family moved to Toulon. There, Joseph set up a biscuit factory for his children to manage. This is where his wife died in 1930 and he died in 1945. After his death, a medical school offered the family 25,000 francs to be able to study his body, but not one of his children would let them. His eldest son Louis is quoted as saying, “there are some things in this life which simply must be treated with reverence.” Apparently Pujol’s sphincter is one of them.
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