Radio personality Howard Stern may believe that he is the original Fartman, but 33-year-old Paul Oldfield of England is the real goods. Oldfield, donning an ill-smelling green and purple superhero costume emblazoned with the letter M, regularly takes to the stage as his alter ego Mr Methane to earn a living strictly from farting. Or, as he prefers to call it, "controlled anal voicing." He explains, "I do with my bottom what Pavarotti does with his mouth." That said, Oldfield has most assuredly done a few things with his anal cavity that Pavarotti has never attempted to do with his oral cavity.
Oldfield's 45-minute Mr Methane act includes notable show-stoppers like trouser trumpeting (both classical and popular music pieces are included), blowing candles out on a cake, and farting a dart to burst a balloon that sits on someone's head. During a performance on Swedish TV, his puckering asshole once sent a dart flying 28 feet. In addition to his stage antics, Oldfield sells farting gadgets like the Methane Muffler from his Web site, and has produced a 50-minute video entitled Mr Methane Lets Rip. The video features, among other things, the caped, cheese-cutting crusader laying his fragrant eggs upon unsuspecting members of the general public. He has also ventured into the music studio and, in conjunction with his manager and former Jethro Tull band member Barriemore Barlow, created a CD of his rectal maneuvers -- although his rendition of "Blue Danube" is probably not as Johann Strauss II envisioned it.
Before snickering at Oldfield's ambitions, or lack thereof, one should know that Mr Methane earned the equivalent of about US $70,000 last year from his odoriferous occupation. Not bad work if you can get it.
Oldfield's quest to put the art into fart, like many great achievements, began purely by accident. At the tender age of 15, while practicing yoga with his sister, he discovered a unique "ability to breathe both fore and aft, so to speak." A talent like this was not something to be wasted, especially among adolescent boys, and he soon learned that he could earn extra cash by staging fart-a-thons for his high school classmates. Oldfield boasts, "I became a pumping prodigy."
Following his formal education, Oldfield initially passed on a career in passing gas and took a job with England's state railway system. While toiling on the railway lines for a number of years, his talent stewed inside him. A railway buddy, familiar with Oldfield's exploits, finally convinced his friend to take to the stage during an open mike night at a local blues club in 1990. Expecting to be shamed off the stage following his impromptu performance, Oldfield was soon inundated with requests to perform at birthday parties and other social gatherings. "I realized that there was money in farting," he reflects. "After about a year of performing on a part-time basis, I gave up my railway job and I've been the world's only full-time performing flatulist ever since."
Oldfield began his stage career as the Incredible Farting Man from Buxton Shunting Yards, a title that combined his unique ability with a reference to his railroad background. Unfortunately, he soon discovered that the name was a bit windy for promotional purposes and realized that he had to come up with a new moniker if he and his tush tunes were going to capture the nation's imagination. Thus, like Superman emerging from his Fortress of Solitude, Mr Methane was born. "I needed a superhero image," Oldfield remembers. "Now when I perform these superhuman feats of flatulence, I become Mr Methane."
Although many of his audience members believe that Oldfield must undoubtedly eat a steady diet of beans to become the mythical Mr Methane, his ability has little to do with what he eats and everything to do with sheer physical exertion. "You have to catch your breath at your mouth and then suck up through your butt," he states, describing his method. "Imagine taking a dump but reverse the process. Instead of pushing, suck." By coupling this technique with the trained contraction and expansion of his sphincter muscle, he is able to produce farts of various lengths, pitches, and tones.
During his performances, there are usually individuals in the crowd who don't believe it's possible to fart on command for such a long period of time -- it's as if they think Oldfield is the Milli Vanilli of farters. To prove his talents are genuine, he invites these skeptics to get a firsthand experience of Mr Methane in action by placing their heads on his butt. "I like to get a female up for this part," he states. "It isn't actually necessary to have a female but it helps with my masturbatory fantasies after the show."
Surprisingly, farting for a living even has a history, albeit a short one. Prior to Mr Methane, the most famous windy wonder was a 19th century Frenchman named Joseph Pujol. Adopting the pseudonym Le Petomane (The Fartiste), he amazed audiences with his reputed ability to breathe in and out through his anus. At the peak of his career, Pujol performed at Paris' famous Moulin Rouge and was reportedly one of the highest paid entertainers in France. This bit of French stage history makes the whole Jerry Lewis thing a lot less perplexing. Says Oldfield of Pujol, "I respect him. We farters have to stick together. If you don't count male prostitutes, he was the first guy to make his living with his bottom."
Oldfield has yet to play the Moulin Rouge but his exploits have taken him around the world. He has appeared on television variety programs in various countries and toured parts of the USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, Britain, and other European countries. Although he's a surefire hit on college campuses, the lion's share of his wages comes from private parties or corporate functions. "People looking for something a little different for the Christmas party," he explains. His coup to date involved a performance in a private country home a few years ago for members of the royal family. Although a confidentiality agreement forbids him from disclosing the names of those in the audience, he concedes that "they traveled in the same circles as Diana and Charles." Perhaps this revelation will breathe new life into conspiracy theories about Diana's death.
Taking in a Mr Methane show can certainly test one's olfactory glands. Oldfield jokes, "It's actually the only show in the world where the seats in the back row are more attractive than the ones in the front row." Although his performances can be initially foul smelling, he explains, "After I get everything cleared out, it's not too bad." Luckily, Oldfield has only once experienced the onstage sensation of shitting his pants or, as he puts it, "catching a crayfish in the net." Laughing about the incident, he remembers, "No one knew that it happened. I imagine that some people may have suspected it based upon the sound that it made but I never stopped the show." In the tradition of all great performers, whether breaking a leg or breaking wind, Mr Methane lives and farts by the adage, "The show must go on."
Regg Crimev is a freelance writer working out of Los Angeles. He has never earned a penny from farting.