Le Pétomane

July 3, 2008

In Blazing Saddles, Mel Brooks plays cross-eyed governor William J. LaPetomane who is more concerned with banging his secretary than saving the prairie town of Rock Ridge from a scheming railroad company. My sister discovered that Governor LaPetomane is actually based on Le Pétomane, a French stage performer from the 1890s with a talent for controlling is abdominal muscles allowing him to fart at will. The name Le Pétomane combines the French verb péter (or fart) with mane (maniac) thus granting him the prestigious title of "the farting maniac".

Le Pétomane first discovered his erstwhile talent as a child while swimming in the ocean. He noticed that he was unable to control water penetrating his anus and that he could even suck up water from his rectum and project it several yards. Although a baker by trade, Le Pétomane regularly entertained customers by imitating musical instruments behind the counter (which I can't imagine whetted peoples' appetites for his, um... buns). At any rate, Le Pétomane soon took his talent to the stage eventually playing the Moulin Rouge in 1892. Some of his highlights included playing a flute through a rubber tube inserted in his ass, emulating cannon fire and thunderstorms, and blowing out candles from several yards away. Among Le Pétomane's audience were Edward, Prince of Wales, Belgian King Leopold II, and Sigmund Freud (who no doubt had plenty to say on the subject). In later years, Le Pétomane joined the vogue of recreating natural disasters for public entertainment by farting his impression of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.