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Le Pétomane

"Le Pétomane" is copyright © 2006 by James G. Mundie. All rights reserved.  Reproduction prohibited.

ink drawing on paper, 11 x 9 inches, 2006
illustration for volume 9 of James Taylor's Shocked and Amazed! On & Off the Midway, published November 2007

Joseph Pujol (1857-1945) was one of the world's most unusual performers. He started life as a baker's son, but became a show business legend. The secret to Pujol's success was the ability to “breathe” through his anus. Seriously. As a youth, Pujol discovered he could ‘inhale’ quantities of air or water into his rectum and expel it at will. With practice Pujol became quite dextrous, and was able to create all manner of farting noises that mimicked ripping cloth, musical instruments, and the like. With the aid of a length of rubber tubing Pujol could also use his posterior to play a flute, act as a fountain, or smoke a cigarette.

Pujol first used this unusual talent to amuse his army bunkmates, but in civilian life Pujol eventually found fame on the stage of France's Moulin Rouge as Le Pétomane, the Fartiste. Beginning in 1892, Pujol and his backside were the toast of Paris, with audiences literally rolling in the aisles (one unfortunate fellow even died of heart failure when he was unable to stop laughing). Pujol's act was so popular that he even inspired imitators, though one female fartiste was proven to have hidden a bellows in her petticoat.

A contract dispute in 1895 led Pujol to leave the Moulin Rouge and open his own Theatre Pompadour, where he entertained with the aid of a small orchestra. The climax of his act was to snuff out a candle from several feet away, followed by a jolly sing-along.

The First World War brought an end to Pujol's career. He retired in 1918 and lived the remainder of his days as a baker in Marseilles. That such an act could achieve such wide regard and lasting fame may seem unbelievable, but then one remembers that the French also adore Jerry Lewis.

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All Images and Text © James G. Mundie 2006 - 2007