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Are farts universally funny?
April 29, 2007 6:19 PM   Subscribe

Are farts universally funny?

Is it a human instinct to laugh at flatulence? I mean, I'll be the first to admit that it makes me laugh almost involuntarily. Without fail.

Is this so in other cultures? Do Aborigines sit around and try to out-do one another (for instance)?

Sorry for the coarse nature of my question, or if this has bubbled up before.
posted by Bud Dickman to Human Relations (57 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
I recall there was this French comedian in the 18th century who mostly relied on flatulence in his comedy, so it's not that recent or just American.
posted by champthom at 6:26 PM on April 29, 2007


I think what makes them funny is that in our culture they are somewhat taboo... a topic we dont really deal with directly and as such when they occur they make people nervous or embarassed, a common way to deal with those feelings it through laughter. So I would say that any culture that allos for open displays of laughter and views passing as in a somewhat taboo personal body funtion that the answer would be yes, they would find it funny; at least in the right circumstances.
posted by crewshell at 6:27 PM on April 29, 2007


some people are very offended by farts!
posted by Salvatorparadise at 6:28 PM on April 29, 2007


*allows / gas*
posted by crewshell at 6:28 PM on April 29, 2007


I vote yes. Everyone I know laughs at farts.

In fact. I just farted.
posted by fair_game at 6:28 PM on April 29, 2007


yes-funny pretty much always
posted by mkim at 6:30 PM on April 29, 2007


There's a part in one of the Homeric Hymns where the Baby Dionysius is being held by Apollo and he lets out a "gassy omen"

So, yes, fart jokes are timeless.
posted by dagnyscott at 6:31 PM on April 29, 2007


Ha... didn't know about that example from the Homeric hymns. One more recent and well-known example is the Miller's Tale from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. That particular tale is basically one big fart joke, so that's documentation of fart humor in England at least as early as 1386 or so.
posted by musicinmybrain at 6:36 PM on April 29, 2007


Yes.

Any other questions?
posted by Frank Grimes at 6:40 PM on April 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


I find them offensive. Universally.

Maybe it's just because I connect them with the smell, which is basically molecules of various matter that was up your ass and is now up my nose.
posted by matty at 6:40 PM on April 29, 2007 [4 favorites]


My wife says no.
posted by unSane at 6:41 PM on April 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


recall there was this French comedian in the 18th century who mostly relied on flatulence in his comedy, so it's not that recent or just American.

Le Petomane was his name.
posted by Falconetti at 6:53 PM on April 29, 2007


*poot*
posted by anthill at 6:58 PM on April 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


I once had the opportunity to meet Steve Saint, the man portrayed in the film The End of the Spear, about the interactions between Christian missionaries and the Huaorani Indians of Ecuador.

He was telling me about describing outer space to them, and they couldn't believe that there could be a place without any air. "Air is everywhere!", they said. After telling them about space suits, one of them ask what would happen if they farted - and all of them found the idea of that to be absolutely hysterical.
posted by jpdoane at 7:00 PM on April 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's a bad smell that inexplicably comes out of people. It's so essentially absurd that it's wrong not to laugh.
posted by cowbellemoo at 7:01 PM on April 29, 2007


I don't find them particularly funny. (Or horribly disgusting.) But what I really don't find funny is burping. I'm so sick of movies (which I don't see, but I see the ads for them on TV) in which an animal, animated character, sexy girl or big fat guy makes a really loud burp. Ho hum. I hate it almost as much as I hate that little ding sound they dub in when someone winks. Ugh. /rant
posted by grumblebee at 7:02 PM on April 29, 2007


Kurt Vonnegut thought so. Here's an excerpt from his novel Galapagos, where he talks about the future of human evolution, after a disease forces us to abandon land and basically become seals:
And people still laugh as much as they ever did, despite their shrunken brains. If a bunch of them are lying around on a beach, and one of them farts, everybody laughs and laughs, just as people would have done a million years ago.
posted by contraption at 7:02 PM on April 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


To put my comment in context, I grew up in a really permissive household. There weren't many taboos. I thought about this the other night when I some guy on a TV show talked about naughty sex (sex in public or whatever) being the best kind, because it's taboo and there's that extra excitement of rebelling against a taboo. Maybe this is sad, but I realized that naughty sex doesn't do a thing for me. I'm definately a sexual creature, but rebellion just isn't a part of it.

So I'm inclinded to think that people farting is mostly funny to people who grew up around other people who were horribly offended by it.
posted by grumblebee at 7:06 PM on April 29, 2007


Read Galapagos and you will find the answer is yes.
posted by quadog at 7:12 PM on April 29, 2007


So I'm inclinded to think that people farting is mostly funny to people who grew up around other people who were horribly offended by it.

Maybe, but I know at least in my case:

a) i grew up in a household where one of my parents was an accomplished fartologist and was quite proud of it,

b) I still think farts are funny, and,

c) it's even funnier when the dog does it.

Apropos of very little, I offer one of my favorite AskMe questions.
posted by jamaro at 7:17 PM on April 29, 2007


Apropos of very little, I offer one of my favorite AskMe questions.

How did I miss that one? Thank you.
posted by unSane at 7:21 PM on April 29, 2007


some people are very offended by farts!

As long as these people continue to be very offended by farts, farts will continue to be absolutely hilarious.

And yes, I have on more than one occasion used "The Miller's Tale" to support the statement that farts are universally funny.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:27 PM on April 29, 2007


I'm not offended by farts; I just find them wholly unfunny.
posted by scody at 7:27 PM on April 29, 2007


Relatedly, this appears to be the best thing I've ever said on MeFi, based on the number of comments. It's a joke about farts.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:29 PM on April 29, 2007


(And I didn't mean comments, I meant favorites. Gods damn it.)
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:29 PM on April 29, 2007


I just wanted to add this link to one of the best blog entries about farting that I've ever seen.
posted by MsMolly at 7:44 PM on April 29, 2007 [6 favorites]


In Canada - I hate them.
posted by Sonic_Molson at 8:02 PM on April 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


Dante wrote a fart joke into the Inferno (scroll down to the last line). So we've got him, the Homeric Hymns and Chaucer-- i think we can conclude that the fart is an important theme in Western Literature.
posted by Kronoss at 8:17 PM on April 29, 2007


No. I don't find them funny at all, and never have. And I think that people who do are obnoxious.

I guess that in the context of the answers above, I need to add that I'm not offended by them. I don't find them taboo, either...in fact, that's part of the reason that they're *not* funny.

Really, if you laugh uncontrollably at something just because you think it's "taboo," and farts qualify as "taboo" for you, then you're just an obnoxious, naive little kid.
posted by bingo at 8:24 PM on April 29, 2007


The Wiki flatulist entry, if authoritative*, certainly makes the case that playing the heinal hautboy as a source of either entertainment or jocularity is, umm, far-flung:
The art of farting was also practiced in the Far East, as is evident from a story dating to the Japanese Kamakura period (1185–1333), set forth in an illustrated scroll, tells of a professional performer of fart dances called Oribe, who tricked his rival into soiling and thus disgracing himself in an attempt to mimick him.
. . .
In the Innu mythology of Canada, Matshishkapeu (literally the "Fart Man") is the most powerful spirit, a legendary shaman capable of inflicting gastrointestinal pain or relief.
. . .
[T]he 13th century English Liber Feodorum (Book of Fees), list[s] one Roland the Farter, who held Hemingstone manor in the county of Suffolk, for which he was obliged to perform "Unum saltum et siffletum et unum bumbulum" (one jump, one whistle, and one fart) annually at King Henry II's court every Christmas.
*it is lightly sourced, as were — undoubtedly — many practitioners
posted by rob511 at 8:28 PM on April 29, 2007


I don't get why people find farts funny. It just seems lame to me. But I don't think people falling down is funny either, and it seems the same people laugh at both.
posted by rintj at 8:28 PM on April 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


The flattus from the anus is funny. Period.
posted by UncleHornHead at 8:36 PM on April 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't find farts funny, and since a lot of others on this thread agree, then I think you have your answer. Since any dissent means it's not universal.

Laughing at farts always seems like the most boring form of humour - how can it be funny over and over again?
posted by Kololo at 8:44 PM on April 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


Nothing is universally funny. There's always going to be the person in the corner saying 'that's not funny,' no matter what.

But farts have got to be pretty close. In order for something to be universally funny, at minimum it's got to be a universal human experience. Farting and some other bodily functions are that.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:00 PM on April 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Since any dissent means it's not universal."

I think it's clear, in the context of this question, that the OP means "universal" in the sense of predominance between cultures and throughout time. And with the evidence provided in the replies, I think it's plain to see that it is, in fact, universal. We have everything from the writings of Homer to the idle chats of native tribes removed from society at large, all agreeing.

You find a single type of humor that has the universal sort of appeal you are referring to, and you'll find yourself a place in the history books.
posted by CrayDrygu at 9:00 PM on April 29, 2007


Also, I'm willing to bet that all of the people in this thread saying farts aren't funny to them laughed themselves silly over it when they were children or infants, at least once.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:02 PM on April 29, 2007


Farts, themselves, can be funny. Fart jokes, on the other hand, are very rarely funny. Mostly because most fart jokes are fairly routine and obvious (look! Awkward situation! FART! yawn...), and obvious (to me) does not usually equal funny.

Bonus points because fart is a funny word.
posted by pdb at 9:06 PM on April 29, 2007


Oh definitely, I have laughed at farts at some point. Usually because there's an element of surprise, or because I was eight years old. But mostly fart jokes just make me role my eyes.

And i'm certain there must be cultures where farts are either so unremarkable as coughing, and other cultures where farting is a completely humiliating disgrace, where people would just avert their eyes and be glad that they aren't part of the family you just shamed. Anybody know of any cultures like that?
posted by Kololo at 9:39 PM on April 29, 2007


[...] other cultures where farting is a completely humiliating disgrace, where people would just avert their eyes and be glad that they aren't part of the family you just shamed. Anybody know of any cultures like that?

Sure -- my grandmother's house. And that just made the occasional accidental ripper all the funnier. Not sure if that counts as a culture, though.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:42 PM on April 29, 2007


I don't find it funny (I don't remember ANYBODY in my family ever laughing at such a thing). I'll ignore it IRL (normal part of life doesn't faze me) but I absolutely loathe it in movies. Vulgar.

I lost any shred of respect I had for Eddie Murphy after that stupid and disgusting dinner scene in that stupid movie (someone else can get the name from imdb, I hate the movie too much to bother).
posted by who squared at 9:54 PM on April 29, 2007


"Laughing at farts always seems like the most boring form of humour - how can it be funny over and over again?"

That's WHY they're funny!
posted by klangklangston at 10:11 PM on April 29, 2007


nothing is as funny as a well timed fart
posted by hortense at 11:04 PM on April 29, 2007


wuddya mean? farts are SO funny. if all farts sounded the same, then they would get boring real fast, but the fact is that each fart has an unique personality. some are loud and tremulous, others are meek and weak, oh, i could go on all day about the characteristics of farts.

but to answer the original question, i will share my whoopee cushion story. back in me ol' high school days, i had one of those self-inflating whoopee cushions and i would go around using it to see how people would react for kicks. after a while, i noticed that people's reactions to a fart varied by race. in general, here's a summary of their reactions.

kids (of any kind) - either would laugh and walk away or go running to mommy or daddy immediately screaming "that person farted!" to the whole world.

blacks/hispanics - would always laugh. without fail. and sometimes would take it as an opportunity to share some fart jokes. i'm serious!

asians - always ignored my sounds, no matter how much i tried to get their attention. as a side note, i have witnessed (or "experienced" should i say?) older asian men several times cutting a few with impunity in public. and they never batted an eye or acknowledged the fart in any way, even though their family might have looked a little embarrassed.

whites - would always make a look of disgust and hold their nose while quickly walking away. i found this reaction particularly hilarious.

oh and that movie with eddie murphy was "the nutty professor." i actually want to watch it again now that i think about it. that farting scene was the best!
posted by tastycracker at 11:48 PM on April 29, 2007


Farts among friends are always funny, farts among train commuters not so much.
posted by PuGZ at 12:21 AM on April 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Farts are neither funny nor offensive. They're just smelly. I do find my dad's sneezes hilariously outrageous though, so each to their own.
posted by liquorice at 1:39 AM on April 30, 2007


It's funny because it's undignified, and it's a reminder that no matter how seriously we want to take ourselves, we all still need to go to the bathroom. Farting noisily releases some of the tension associated with striving to appear respectable.

That said, I find scripted fart jokes really tedious.
posted by teleskiving at 1:41 AM on April 30, 2007


I soon learned that the very worst breach of Minyanmin etiquette is to break wind in public. So great is their abhorrence of such a breach that the only equivalent taboo I can think of in our own society is masturbating in public. One evening Don, who had been suffering a stomach complaint, did let one fly. Our Miyanmin hosts hung their heads in shame and covered their eyes with their hands. Finally, our translator Kegesep saved the day. 'Well', he said in Miyanmin, breaking the tension, 'everyone does have an arsehole, after all.'
Tim Flannery, in "Throwim way leg"
posted by Canard de Vasco at 3:33 AM on April 30, 2007


Also, I'm willing to bet that all of the people in this thread saying farts aren't funny to them laughed themselves silly over it when they were children or infants, at least once.

Wrong in my case, at least.
posted by bingo at 7:04 AM on April 30, 2007


Are you sure? Are you? You never burbled and giggled with mindless giggly joy as the gas bubbled warm and pleasant out your wobbly butt when you were 18 months old and preverbal?

Maybe. I can't remember that far back, but I've seen enough babies to guess what I was like back then.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:10 AM on April 30, 2007


Farts, and their inherent funniness, are the one thing that binds all cultures of the world. Well, that and pictures of cute baby animals.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 9:05 AM on April 30, 2007


No. I think they're offensive and I hate fart and poop humor.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 10:21 AM on April 30, 2007


My 22 month old son just ripped a ripe one, looked at me and giggled, then said very loudly - "Pee-eww!"

Thats funny stuff. If you don't think so, you need to relax.
posted by ducktape at 10:27 AM on April 30, 2007


Universal, meaning everyone ever? No, since thirteen fourteen* people do not think it's funny. Spanning cultures, time, and geography? Yes. Made even funnier to those who laugh, by those who don't laugh? Yes.

*including whoever deleted my previous (high-larious!) comments in this already quite metachatty thread
posted by mimi at 10:41 AM on April 30, 2007


Oh, god, thank you MsMolly. I haven't read that in ages and really needed it today.
posted by Space Kitty at 10:57 AM on April 30, 2007


I think that only the fart noise is universally funny (not on an individual scale, as is demonstrated by this thread, but in the sense that I doubt there are cultures that do not have fart humor).

The creeping stinky smell is looked down upon at least as much as it is laughed at, especially on airplanes.
posted by ontic at 1:12 PM on April 30, 2007


It's even funnier if it's animated creatures.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:53 PM on April 30, 2007


In childhood, I read a book of folktales from Japan that had been the textbook of some class one of my parents took. It included a jealous-imitator-gets-comeuppance story where the good guy entertains a passing lord by performing as The Old Man Who Breaks Wind, and is paid handsomely for it; but his envious neighbor tries to do the same, lets something more solid slip, and has his buttocks cut off.

There was also a Maori legend I read (yes, I was a nerd child) where marital discord was induced by putting sticks or something under the bed, the sound of which when they broke prompted accusations of, yes, farting in bed.

So there's some cross-cultural evidence for you.
posted by eritain at 5:52 AM on May 1, 2007


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