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Le Pétomane

Le Pétomane (pronounced /ləˈpɛtəmeɪn/, French pronunciation: [ləpetɔˈman]) was the stage name of the French flatulist (professional farter) and entertainer Joseph Pujol (June 1, 1857 - 1945). He was famous for his remarkable control of the abdominal muscles, which enabled him to fart at will. His stage name combines the French verb péter, "to fart" with the -mane, "-maniac" suffix, which translates to "the fart maniac". The profession is also referred to as "flatulist", "farteur", or "fartiste".[1]

It is a common misconception to state that Joseph Pujol actually farted as part of his stage performance. Farting implies the release through the anus of intestinal gases. Pujol was "gifted" in the sense that he was able to inhale air into his rectum and then control the release of that air using his sphincter muscles. Evidence of his ability to control those muscles can be seen in the early accounts of demonstrations of his abilities to fellow soldiers.



Le Pétomane ca 1890

Joseph Pujol was born in Marseille. He was one of five children of François (a stonemason and sculptor) and Rose Pujol. Soon after he left school he had a strange experience while swimming in the sea. He put his head under the water and held his breath, whereupon he felt an icy cold penetrating his rear. He ran ashore in fright and was amazed to see water pouring from his anus. A doctor assured him that there was nothing to worry about.

When he joined the army he told his fellow soldiers about his special ability, and repeated it for their amusement, sucking up water from a pan into his rectum and then projecting it through his anus up to several yards. He then found that he could suck in air as well. Although a baker by profession, Pujol would entertain his customers by imitating musical instruments, and claim to be playing them behind the counter. Pujol decided to try his talent on the stage, and debuted in Marseille in 1887. After his act proved successful, he proceeded to Paris, where he took the act to the Moulin Rouge in 1892.

Some of the highlights of his stage act involved sound effects of cannon fire and thunderstorms, as well as playing "'O Sole Mio" and "La Marseillaise" on an ocarina through a rubber tube in his anus.[2] He could also blow out a candle from several yards away.[1] His audience included Edward, Prince of Wales, King Leopold II of the Belgians and Sigmund Freud.[3]

In 1894, the managers of the Moulin Rouge sued Pujol for an impromptu exhibition he gave to aid a friend struggling with economic difficulties. For the measly sum of 3,000 francs (Pujol's usual fee being 20,000 francs per show), the Moulin Rouge lost their star attraction, who proceeded to set up his own traveling show called the Theatre Pompadour.

In the following decade Pujol tried to 'refine' and make his acts 'gentler'; one of his favourite numbers became a rhyme about a farm which he himself composed, and which he punctuated with the usual anal renditions of the animals' sounds. The climax of his act however involved him farting his impression of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

With the outbreak of World War I, Pujol, horrified by the inhumanity of the conflict, retired from the stage and returned to his bakery in Marseille. Later he opened a biscuit factory in Toulon. He died in 1945,[4] aged 88, and was buried in the cemetery of La Valette-du-Var, where his grave can still be seen today. The Sorbonne offered his family a large sum of money to study his body after his death, but they refused the offer.


  • There is a musical based on his life called The Fartiste which was awarded Best Musical at the 2006 New York International Fringe Festival.
  • Le Petomane was added to writer-producer David Lee's 2007 reworked revival of the 1953 Broadway play Can-Can, which had originally been written by Abe Burroughs and Cole Porter. The updated play, staged at the Pasadena Playhouse, featured musical theater actor Robert Yacko as the fartiste, with sound effects provided by the band's trombone and piccolo players.
  • Paul Oldfield is a British fartiste who presently performs under the name Mr. Methane. He has appeared several times on The Howard Stern Show.
  • The 1999 Kinky Friedman novel, Spanking Watson, makes frequent reference to Le Petomane.
  • Le Petomane was the name of a character in Sarah Bynum's novel Madeleine is Sleeping.
  • Johnny Depp has mentioned in interviews in Playboy, Vogue (September 1994) and other magazines that he would love to portray Pujol in a film.
  • In the Two and a Half Men episode "That Voodoo That I Do" the dance studio is called "les petites petomanes" in his honour.
  • One of the Hobo Names in John Hodgman's book The Areas of My Expertise is Whistlin' Anus LePetomane
  • In the Nickelodeon cartoon Rugrats episode "Momma Trauma" (season 1, episode 7), a psychologist's name is Dr. Lepetomaine.
  • In Kevin Gilbert's final musical work, The Shaming of the True, credit for the horn parts is attributed to "The Le Petomane Ensemble".

Petomane in Books

  • Los Angeles-based Sherbourne Press published Jean Nohain and F. Caradec's Le Petomane as a small hardcover English language edition in 1967. Due to its ‘sensitive’ nature, the usual national publicity venues shied away, some claiming that an author was needed for interviews (both elderly writers lived in France). However, ‘behind the curtain’ acceptance created a buzz within the national radio/TV promotional circuit and word-of-mouth discussion kept the book in stores for several years. Dorset Press, a division of Barnes & Noble, reissued the book in 1993.
  • Ricky Jay discusses Le Petomane in his book Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women.
  • Jim Dawson included a chapter on Le Petomane in his book Who Cut the Cheese? (Ten Speed Press, 1999) and a chapter on the various films about Le Petomane in Blame It on the Dog (2006).
  • Simon & Schuster released a 2008 children's book about his life called The Fartiste written by Kathleen Krull & Paul Brewer and illustrated by Boris Kulikov.

Petomane on Film

  • Ian MacNaughton made a 1979 short humorous film, written by Galton and Simpson called Le Petomane, based on Pujol's story and starring veteran comic actor Leonard Rossiter.[5]
  • The 1983 Italian movie Il Petomane, starring Ugo Tognazzi, gives a poetic rendition of the character, contrasting his deep longing for normalcy with the condition of 'freak' to which his act relegated him.
  • Le Petomane is the title of a 1998 mockumentary by Igor Vamos[6] that examines Joseph Pujol's place in history through archival films (none of which actually include him), historical documents, photographs, recreations and fake or tongue-in-cheek interviews.
  • Le Pétomane: Parti Avec Le Vent is a 2005 short film based on Pujol's life, starring Ben Wise. It was written, produced and directed by Steve Ochs.
  • Le Petomane was a minor character, played by Australian actor Keith Robinson, in Baz Luhrmann's 2001 film Moulin Rouge.
  • In his 1974 film Blazing Saddles, Mel Brooks plays the part of "Governor William J. LePetomane".

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b Le Pétomane: The Strange Life of a "Fartiste" Accessed 2008-09-01
  2. ^ Did a French vaudeville star once specialize in trained flatulence? Accessed 2008-12-02
  3. ^ Begone With the Wind Accessed 2008-09-01
  4. ^ One source says his death occurred "shortly after the Allied landing", presumably a reference to D-Day, 6 June, but that was in 1944.
  5. ^ "Le Petomane (1979)". British movies. Retrieved 2009-01-05.  
  6. ^ White, Mike. "Le Petomane: Fin de Siècle Fartiste (Igor Vamos, 2000)". Cahiers du Cinemart. Retrieved 2009-10-19.  

Further reading

  • Le Petomane 1857-1945 by Jean Nohain and F. Caradec; translated by Warren Tute. Sherbourne Press (1967)
  • Le Petomane 1857-1945 by Jean Nohain and F. Caradec; translated by Warren Tute. Dorset Press (1993)

External links



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