So much has changed over the past several thousands of years that it's easy to forget about some of the things that have not. We might have fancy phones and technologies that early humankind could have never thought possible, but we’re still the same people we always were—fallible, farting people.
There have been a lot of farts in the history of civilization. A lot of farts. Here are 20 of the most noteworthy ones and gas-passing-adjacent incidents dating back to the 19th century BCE.
1. The World’s Oldest Joke (Yep, It’s A Fart joke)
According to research by the University of Wolverhampton, the world’s oldest known joke was a saying by the Sumerians in what is now Iraq, sometime around 1900 BCE. While it’s hardly the kind of material that would get you a Netflix special these days, it’s recognizable as a fart gag: “Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband’s lap.”
2. The Fart That Started A Revolution
In Egypt in 570 BCE, a fart changed everything. King Apries had angered his people and was worried about a mutiny, sending one of his best generals, Amasis, to calm things down. However, the mutineers decided Amasis would be king instead, and he was into it. When Apries sent a messenger to bring Amasis back, Amasis farted and instructed the messenger to take that back to the king. This led to a battle, a defeat, and a new farting bottom on the throne.
3. The Thousand And One Nights of Farts
While some of the stories in the Middle Eastern folk tale collection The Thousand And One Nights are incredibly well known—Aladdin, Ali Baba, and Sinbad, for instance—Hollywood has yet to adapt the story of Abu Hasan’s fart to the big screen. In the story, Hasan is getting married for the second time after his wife’s death, and ruins his wedding by ripping a fat one. Ashamed, he runs away and doesn’t return for 10 years. Slinking back into the city, he overhears a young girl asking her mother what her birthday is. She replies, “You were born the night Abu Hasan farted." Great stuff.
4. Roland The Farter Invents Multitasking
Older people often talk about how much better entertainment was in the old days. But in the 12th century, the pinnacle of entertainment was a guy jumping in the air, whistling and farting at the same time. This dazzling spectacle, referred to as unum saltum et siffletum et unum bumbulum ("one jump, one whistle and one fart"), was performed just once a year for Henry II, for which its performer, Roland The Farter, was paid a handsome annual wage.
5. Sir Henry Ludlow Passes Gas In Parliament
Everyone’s let a fart or two slip when they'd much rather they hadn't. Unfortunately for MP Sir Henry Ludlow, when he let one rip in the House of Commons in 1607, his hindquarters became the subject of a 200-line libelous poem listing other MPs and how they might have reacted to the honk.
"Quoth Sir Henry Poole, 'It was a bold tricke / To Fart in the nose of the bodie pollitique.' / 'Indeed I confesse,' quoth Sir Edward Grevill / 'The matter of it selfe was somewhat uncivill.' / 'Thanke God,' quoth Sir Edward Hungerford / 'That this Fart proved not a Turdd.'"
You get the idea.
6. Jonathan Swift Has Fun With Farts
Gulliver’s Travels author Jonathan Swift is famed as one of the greatest satirical writers ever to put pen to paper, but he also wasn’t above the kind of fart gag the average 12-year-old conjures up on a daily basis. His 1722 pamphlet The Benefits Of Farting Explain’d was published under a pseudonym, claiming to be “wrote in Spanish, by Don Fart-Inhando Puff-Indorst Professor of Bumbast in the University of Craccow” and “translated into English at the Request and for the Use of the Lady Damp-Fart, of Her-fart-shire” by “Obadiah Fizle, Groom of the Stool to the Princess of Arse-Mini in Sardinia.”
7. Japanese Fart Contests Are Epically Immortalized
The library at Waseda University in Japan is home to a great many unique historical artifacts. It's also home to an incredible scroll, 33 feet long, dating from 1846 and depicting various stages in an elaborate farting contest. The scroll, known as He-gassen, is part of a minor tradition of immortalizing guff-offs—there are other butt-scrolls dating from as early as the 1400s.
8. Benjamin Franklin’s Windy Plea
America’s most beloved polymath wasn’t being entirely serious when he penned the 1871 essay "To The Royal Academy Of Farting," but he made some fine points. Namely, that if science could come up with "some Drug wholesome & not disagreeable, to be mix’d with our common Food, or Sauces, that shall render the natural Discharges of Wind from our Bodies, not only inoffensive, but agreeable as Perfumes," the world would be a better place. He was annoyed at the scientific establishment pursuing what he saw as increasingly pompous goals rather than trying to solve practical problems like, uh, smelly butthole pumps.
9. Fartist Lé Petomane Takes To The Stage
Nineteenth-century entertainer Joseph Pujol, better known by his stage name Le Pétomane (“The Fartamaniac”), had extraordinary control over his anal sphincter, and could “inhale” air through his rectum and control the speed at which it came out. This meant he could, among other things, imitate cannon fire and play "O Sole Mio" on an ocarina stuck up his bottom. His act was a massive hit, and he performed at the Moulin Rouge for several years before a falling out with management. He later reinvented his act as more wholesome, merely farting animal noises.
10. Al Roker Makes an Oopsie Poopsie
Following his 2002 gastric bypass, Today show meteorologist Al Roker let out what he thought would be a perfectly reasonable, quiet fart on a visit to the White House. However, it came with a prize, and Roker sharted. He kept the tale to himself for a decade or so, but in 2013 soberly shared it with NBC, stating simply: “I pooped my pants.”
The weather was similarly smelly in Mississippi in 2017, when a young boy crashed a weather report to warn of “farts everywhere, and toots” before being carried off-screen by his father.
11. Mike Ditka Possibly Drops A Door-Smasher Of A Fart On ESPN
Polarizing NFL legend Mike Ditka may have farted on ESPN in 2015, and if he did, he didn’t just fart, he farted. While Ditka denied it, saying he was at a point in his life where he would happily fart on TV but didn’t happen to on this occasion, we all know how denying and supplying go together. Sure, it might be someone else in the studio reacting to co-host Cris Carter’s endorsement of the Giants by blowing a raspberry, but Carter’s bemused-turned-amused reaction led viewers to believe that he was reacting to Ditka delivering the kind of fart you could demolish a shed with.
Other alleged wind incidents caught on camera in the sports world include Padres manager Bud Black doing a trouser cough in 2012; 49ers head coach Jim Tonsula letting one rip at a press conference in 2015; University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari trumping in 2017; and someone stinking up the ESPN Halftime set. Then there are more aggressive farts from sports stars, like 2019’s double-impact fart news of LeBron James farting at a fan and Antonio Brown farting in his doctor’s face.
12. Bernie Sanders Fans Plan Elaborate ‘Fart-In’
A group of human rights protestors and Bernie Sanders supporters organized a "fart-in" at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, aiming to drown out the sounds of Hillary Clinton’s speech with mass flatulence. The group handed out beans and whoopee cushions to attendees, with organizer Cheri Honkala, national coordinator for the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign and 2012 Green Party vice presidential nominee, telling them, “Sharting is always a potential consequence, but we have napkins.”
13. Berlin’s “Crazy Toot Trial” Wastes Police Time
A Berlin man who was asked to show police his ID in 2017 opted to fart at them instead, beginning an 18-month legal saga known as the “Irrer-Pups Prozess” (or “Crazy Toot Trial”). While it started as a relatively minor two-fart incident, as the legal process went on, dozens of people were involved, raising questions about public spending and whether this was the best use of public funds. The farter was eventually fined $1000.
14. Viral Farter Loses Job
In 2018, a Florida security guard who posted on Instagram under the name “Paul Flart” was fired after videos of his farts at work went viral. (It wasn't the farts that lead to the firing, it was the 75 violations of his job’s no-phones policy, but still). Farts and work don’t always go together. In Australia, a decade-long legal battle ended in 2019 with the Supreme Court ruling that repeatedly farting on a co-worker did not constitute bullying. A New Jersey woman brought a lawsuit against her husband’s former employer in 2015 claiming that he had been discriminated against due to his uncontrollable flatulence following a gastric bypass, leading to his eventual firing. The suit was thrown out.
15. Darts Pros Rattled By Dirty Tactics
In a mystery that will never truly be solved, someone involved in a second-round knockout stage match in 2018’s Grand Slam of Darts did a Grand Slam of Farts. Gary Anderson, who went on to win the tournament, said his opponent Wesley Harms was the farter (and possible pant-soiler), while Harms suggested it was Anderson. Anderson assured reporters he was not responsible, offering several things as proof—(a) solemnly swearing on his kids’ lives; (b) offering to let the reporter put his finger in Anderson’s anus and smell it; (c) citing an improvement in Harms’s game after the smell appeared, suggesting increased comfort; and (d) assuring them that the only times he has ever farted during a match he has also defecated, something previously stated in a documentary. We may never know.
16. The Provocative Austrian Pumper
In 2020, a Vienna man was fined approximately $600 after farting aggressively at police. The fine, officially for “offending public decency," came after an encounter with the cops got increasingly unruly, and the man "let go a massive intestinal wind apparently with full intent."
17. Farts Go Non-Fungible
Of course there are fart NFTs. Brooklyn filmmaker Alexander Ramírez-Mallis sold a collection of a year’s worth of WhatsApp voice memos of farts in NFT form, as well as individually-recorded ones. He told the New York Post, “If the value increases, [buyers] could have an extremely valuable fart on their hands.”
18. Beast-Smellers Spawn Bestseller
A conversation on Twitter between various animal scientists about which animals do and don’t fart led to a New York Times bestseller. Does It Fart? by Dr. Dana Rabaiotti began as a hashtag and became a surprisingly detailed spreadsheet (fun fact: herrings use farts to communicate) before making it to bestseller lists internationally.
19. Mr. Methane Gets Shut Down By Phil Collins
British former rail worker Paul Oldfield is what could be termed a one-trick pony. It’s a good trick, though: He’s a professional farter. Using the stage name Mr. Methane, Oldfield has spent three decades fartin’ round the world, everywhere from Britain’s Got Talent to Howard Stern. Want to see him do a minute-long fart? You can! Phil Collins, however, is not a fan—when Mr. Methane attempted to release a flatulence-heavy parody of "In The Air Tonight" called "Curry In The Air Tonight," Collins refused, with his management clarifying, “This is a very serious song and we cannot see any reason for it to be taken so lightly.”
20. Rudy Giuliani Just Can’t Keep It In
Rudy Giuliani got so upset during a 2020 Michigan hearing on election fraud that he audibly farted—twice. It’s commendable in a way in that Guiliani just goes for it, unambiguously cracking out a pair of stinkers (to the horror of attorney Jenna Ellis, who is sitting next to him).