Joseph Pujol was known as Le Petomane.
He introduced petomanie which drew audiences in their thousands to the Moulin Rouge,
the premier variety theatre in Paris.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I have the honour to present a session of Petomanie."
Audiences were larger than for the legendary Sarah Bernhardt, eager to be paralysed
with laughter, tears running down their eyes and cheeks.
It is necessary to describe something that years ago would not have found its way
into print. Pujol farted.
Joseph Pujol was born at nine o'clock in the evening on June 1, 1857. His parents,
Francois Pujol, a stonemason, and Rose Demaury, were of Catalan origin but settled
in Marseilles. They had five children, of whom Joseph was the eldest.
At 13, he was apprenticed to a baker and, having completed his training, Francois
set him up in his own shop in the Quartier Saint Charles Chuttes-Lavie, where now
there is a street which bears his name - Rue Pujol.
It was during national service that Joseph Pujol discovered his unusual talent for
petomanie, or farting. As a crude entertainment for his comrades, he would inhale
vast quantities of water through his rear, expelling it in a giant fountain. Further
experiments allowed him to duplicate his water trick using air instead.
However, his early forays into show business were as a comedy musician, the 'yokel
with the trombone'. It was only with the encouragement of friends that he adapted
his more unusual artistic skills to the theatre and took the name 'Le Petomane' -
He gave his first professional performance in 1887, aged 30, at the Boulevard Chavre.
It was an immediate success.
He developed the act in the provinces until he reached Paris in 1892. Insisting on
seeing no one else, he persuaded the director of the Moulin Rouge, M Vidler, to engage
him. From the first night he was a sensation.
He took the stage in a costume of red coat, a red silk collar and black satin breeches.
He began by explaining each impersonation that was to follow.
"This is a little girl... this is a bride on her wedding night (small noise) ...
the morning after (loud rasping noise) ... a dressmaker tearing calico (ten seconds
of ripping cloth) ... and this a cannon (loud thunder)."