I told the almighty Facebook that I had a Grumpy column due and that something funny had to happen to me very soon so that I would have something funny to write about. I wasn't sure what to expect, if anything. I simply put a wish to The Universe for something funny to happen, because as we all know, The Universe is an avid reader of Facebook.
The very next comment was from a charming and intelligent female friend. She commented simply, “I just farted.”
Fair enough, I thought. We all fart. I didn't need to know she just farted and I failed to see how I could possibly get an entire column out of this piece of information.
“I need way more info to get a column out of that,” I told her. “Like, where were you when this alleged fart took place? Situation is important. An elevator fart, for example, is a lot funnier than your garden variety toilet fart... although given the acoustics of the toilet bowl, toilet farts can be the Bill Bailey of farts...”
“The Bill Bailey of farts?” my friend enquired. “What kind of fart would be the Noel Fielding of farts? Or the David Mitchell of farts? I distinctly remember waking myself up to Dylan Moran on Saturday morning. The fart I mentioned yesterday was at my desk and in the privacy of my own home. No witnesses, no shame.”
No. The fart in question was strictly between my friend and I.
But it got me thinking, my friend's fart. I googled farting in elevators and was a bit shocked by the rich source of entertainment that unfolded before my eyes. Farting, it seems, is the single, most universally funny thing a human being can do. There are hours of footage out there of people fake farting in elevators (I assume they are fake farts), and the guaranteed reaction from every unsuspecting victim is laughter. A guy stalks his victims in a supermarket and squeezes one out and those around him double over laughing every single time. Two baseball-wearing kids are by equal measures disgusted and amused that someone in an elevator pops one out...
“Dude – you farted!”
“It wasn't me!”
The adult playing the prank lets another one fly, struggling to keep a straight face.
The first kid is wise now. “Oh I know who did that now.”
Giggles all round.
I recall a time when one of my grandmother's ancient Pekinese dogs farted while asleep. The fart astonished the dog into sudden wakefulness. It leapt to its feet, looked around for this phantom creation and ran away, astonished and mystified and baffled by just what was going on here. And it was without a doubt THE funniest thing this kid had EVER seen in his entire short life.
Then I think about famous giggler and funnyman Peter Sellers. From memory, he had to do a scene where a bunch of gangsters get into an elevator, and one of the tough guys lets out a tiny little fart. They are supposed to play it straight, just look a bit disgusted and look at each other, like who's the dirty bastard who did that? But Sellers loses it and this sets everyone off. Again and again. They keep re-shooting the scene but they keep cracking up at the sound of the fart.
Eventually they decide they won't do the sound of the fart, the assistant director will cue them with the word “Now” so that they can react and wonder who the dirty bastard is, inserting the audio-fart later in the editing room.
At their new unfarting cue, they lose it again, time after time, giggling like naughty school boys.
It's a curious thing, how after hundreds of thousands of years of evolution something as basic as a fart can be such a rock-solid thing of comedy gold.
As Oscar Wilde famously said, “Why bother with wit when there are whoopie cushions?”
Grumpy is freelance farter Lee Bemrose. He's at firstname.lastname@example.org