Now, before I begin, let me say that my main source of information for this story is from the son of Le Petomane, who candidly admits that "I am not a writer... I am setting down the facts which can be arranged or amplified at will..." but at least he seems to have others corroborating his story. That is, if those other people didn't get their facts from the possibly inaccurate son first... but I digress. I'm certain that this writeup is 98% fact and fact byproduct, with only slight flights of fancy, but just in case, I've instructed nate to personally hand-deliver everyone who reads this node a small packet of restaurant-quality salt, for you to take the node with.

Now! Le Petomane. Or, if you prefer a Christian name to a stage moniker, Joseph Pujol. Mr. Pujol grew up in an idyllic setting in Poland in the second half of the 19th century. His father was a baker; Pujol was a baker's boy, and therefore a baker by default. Or, he should have been, if not for his special talents.

The random and chaotic effects of genetics are a startling thing to behold sometimes. Why, the very same mechanism that gives the daughter of potato-faced people some very delicate cheekbones, gave me, the son of fine, raven-haried folk, a frizzy near-Afro. Other people gain preternatural reflexes or sharp, doglike hearing. Joseph Pujol, the baker's child, acquired an even more wondrous and random genetic gift - the ability to fart at will.

The way the story is told, young Pujol was swimming in the cold seas one day when he suddenly felt the cold seawater pierce him to his very core. He got on the beach and was startled to discover large amounts of water pouring from his being. A side trip to the doctor indicated no sickness, as was feared; he was left in peace with his peculiar gift.

And how he developed it! For, in the army, he learned how his strange powers could entertain a regiment of hardy soldiers for untold hours... a simple trick, just intaking massive amounts of fluid into the colon and ejecting them at high speeds, a living fountain... he began practicing. He maximized intake volume; he perfected control of expulsion. He practiced with both air and liquids. And he worked on a burlesque routine. He became Le Petomane, jack-of-all-trades entertainer. Singer, trombonist, comic, and, above all, fart artiste of the highest caliber.

His rise was meteoric, as if he was standing on a geyser, or was uplifted from a gust of hot gasses from the Earth. He played the smaller French theatres, and his fame began. In 1891, he entered Marseille, and he owned the stage. And, in 1892, he played his first show at the most famous of Paris theatres, the Moulin Rouge. And he was a hit! A very palpable hit.

As described by his son, Louis, Le Petomane's stage patter, sans sound effects, was something like the following two slices of monologue :

To open the show : “Ladies and Gentlemen, I have the honor to present a session of Petomanie. The word ‘Petomanie’ means someone who can break wind at will–but don’t let your nose worry you. My parents ruined themselves scenting my rectum.”

Once he was on, the imitations would start. “This one is a little girl . . . this the mother-in-law . . . this the bride on her wedding night (very little) . . . and the morning after (very loud) . . . this the mason (dry–no cement) . . . this the dressmaker tearing two yards of calico (this one lasted at least ten seconds and imitated to perfection the sound of material being torn) . . . then a cannon (‘Gunners stand by your guns! Ready–fire!’) . . . the noise of thunder. . .”

And so on. The toast of burlesque Paris he became. A talent to scent up the night sky! His ability to smoke a cigarette without inhaling (from his mouth), his musical skill with the flute (played from either end)... the songs he played, the music... and how he was able to end the show! By extinguishing the footlights at long range!

Le Petomane claimed the cultural elite of Paris as his own, and even entertained King Leopold II of Belgium on more than one occasion... it seemed the poor King just couldn't get enough...

And his career went onward, never as popular as he was in those early days, but well-known and toasted the countryside over... until Le Belle Epoque ended, and many an entertainer's career was ended by the Great War. Mr. Pujol (having dropped the stage name) now moved back to Poland and lived in peace, ending his days entertaining his grandchildren with his immense gifts.

It is claimed that a medical establishment offered the sum of 25,000 francs (not an insubstantial sum, after the wars of the day) for the body of Le Petomane, but his family couldn't bear to pass on the gassy and gay man who had been so bright, so famous, who had made so much noise in the halls of yesteryear.

An interesting sidenote is that Pujol could only produce four notes without the aid of a musical instrument-- do, mi, sol, and the octave do. This is still quite amazing considering it was done with his anus.

My source of information on this is the celebrated Cecil Adams, author of The Straight Dope column in the Chicago Reader

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