It is with blurry hindsight that we mourn theatre culture long since passed, fabricating memories of a show business that was simultaneously more passionate, yet also more genteel. Obviously, this is total bullshit, and nothing so soundly refutes that myth as the career of Joseph Pujol, or “Le P├ętomane.” At a young age, Pujol discovered an unusual gastric talent, enabling him to draw air into his body and fart on command. After his service in the French Army, Pujol perfected his talent as a baker before eventually taking his singular act to the stage in Marseilles in 1887.
He was a hit, eventually moving to Paris later that year and playing the Moulin Rouge in 1892. His stage name, Le P├ętomane, translates to “fartomaniac,” and his talents were admired by no less than Edward, Prince of Wales; King Leopold II of the Belgians and Sigmund Freud. He accompanied music, impersonated cannons, “blew out” candles from yards away, lit his farts on fire and even played an ocarina with the aid of a rubber hose. Pujold became famous.
Above, you can hear Pujol’s 1904 recording. It’s…er… impressive, to be sure, but now—now my darlings, we have a brief clip of an actual P├ętomane performance! The clip below was recorded by Thomas freaking Edison at the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris. At the time, Edison was working on a kinetophonolfactograph—colloquially known as “smell-o-vision,” and what better candidate for this new technology than Le P├ętomane? The audio alone doesn’t do him justice—the man had a presence on stage. I suppose those farts had a certain nobility one must observe in body language. Still, there are reasons smell-o-vision never really caught on. There’s only so much gaseous nobility you can take.
This might be begging for a soundtrack…