Le Pétomane was the stage name of the French 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".
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. He could also blow out a candle from several yards away. His audience included Edward, Prince of Wales, King Leopold II of the Belgians and Sigmund Freud.
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, 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.