When I was a sophomore in boarding school, my roommate Alberto and I recorded all of our farts on a Panasonic boombox, eventually filling up both sides of a blank 90-minute Maxell cassette tape. There were all sorts of farts — emphatic honks, eerie squeakers, gentle puffs, close calls — each punctuated with a burst of euphoric laughter because, as Louis C.K. told Jon Stewart before breaking bad, farts are funny every time: “It comes out of your ass, it smells like poop and makes a little trumpet noise as it exits,” he said. “That’s fucking hilarious.”
Soon kids across campus were waddling into our room, butts clenched and breathless, eager to add their own entry to a methane StoryCorps of sorts. Indeed the result, an exhaustive specimen of adolescent male flatulence in New England in the mid-’90s, belongs in the Library of Congress. Sadly, though, it was mistakenly overdubbed by a 1993 Dave Matthews Band bootleg from the Flood Zone in Richmond, Virginia. (Also a classic.)
I was nostalgically pleased, then, to receive a text from Alberto this week pointing me to the Instagram of “Paul Flart,” aka “The Fart Authority,” a security guard at Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center in Davenport, Florida, who’s been documenting his farts daily for the past five months. Paul Flart, Fart Authority — a playful nod to Paul Blart, Mall Cop — features a 32-year-old Far Side character come to life named Doug who’s always at work, always in uniform, and always staring dispassionately into the camera while farting.
The March 25 maiden voyage, “Paul Flart Is Born,” includes what Alberto and I used to call a “run-on sentence fart,” the rhapsodic satisfaction of which looks to have momentarily caught our effervescent hero off guard.
“People always ask me how often I shit myself when I’m farting,” Paul tells me via Skype. “I can honestly say that’s never happened” — though it’s seemingly come close. Alas, Paul Shart hasn’t yet been born.
Paul was never known as “the fart guy,” but he admits he’s always been amazed by their ability to “transcend language barriers.” A native of South Jersey (“on the nice side of town”), Paul never went to college, opting instead for a string of odd jobs — six years bouncing in an Atlantic City bar, five years overseeing Loss Prevention at Best Buy, etc. Security suited him well, so he moved to Florida to pursue it full time and landed the overnight shift at a hospital not far from his house, patrolling and securing the facilities. The Chief Operating Officer and Plant Manager of the hospital liked Paul’s disposition so much that they made him the daytime point-of-entry contact in the lobby, signing people in as they arrived and distributing visitor passes.“That meant I was alone much of the time in a really large room with amazing acoustics,” he gleefully explains.
One night, around 8 p.m., nearing the end of his shift, Paul remembers having to fart. (“My nana always said ‘better out than in,’ so I’ve kinda always gone with that.”) He waited till the coast was clear to let it rip, which fantastically echoed throughout the chamber like a thunder clap. Paul happened to be group-chatting with some Jersey buddies at the time; they were likewise intrigued and suggested chronicling his polyphonic farts and sharing them online. Five months and 73 videos later, Paul Flart amassed over 20,000 Instagram followers, his latest video receiving 120,000 views in three days.
We expel 10 to 20 farts a day, explains Marc David Makhani, a gastroenterologist in Los Angeles. This amounts to a half liter of gas being emitted after our gut bacteria breaks down the food we eat. Excessive flatulence like Paul’s — the consistent, booming farts posted day after day — is likely due to one of four reasons, according to Makhani: He eats a lot of carbohydrates; he swallows air when he eats; the bacteria in his intestines are more efficient in turning carbohydrates into gas; or, conversely, the bacteria in his intestines don’t consume carbohydrates efficiently and therefore produce gas. Then again it could be something called small intestinal bacterial overgrowth — excess gut bacteria leading to excess flatulence. Or carbonated beverages. Or chewing gum.
Over-farting needn’t always signify a problem, counters David Wiss, MEL’s go-to dietitian from Nutrition in Recovery in L.A. Certain cruciferous vegetables, for example — i.e., cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts — contain sulfur compounds that intensify the odor and frequency of farts. That said, “if someone eats these healthy foods regularly, their body should be able to break them down easier and will have less farting.”
Which is decidedly not Paul’s intention. In fact, he wishes he could figure out what triggers them and fart more, since his goal was to post a video every day, a quota that’s proven difficult to maintain, resulting in entire weeks without an upload. “I was scrambling to find something to help me,” he recalls. “I ate a lot of granola, beans, brussels sprouts and vegetables high in digestible fiber, but sometimes I just struck out.”
Alberto, my farting former roommate, has a take: Paul exemplifies the “underutilized, under-stimulated modern American worker” who spends long hours in isolation often relying on social media for escape and hope. “I think there’s a great quality and consistency to Paul’s farts,” he says with deference. “A certain timbre that says he’s not doing anything freaky-deaky here, he’s just delivering in a working man’s kind of way.”
Which, sadly, got him canned. Paul Flart went viral last Sunday after Barstool Sports tagged him on Instagram. His followers ballooned from 300 to 20,000 overnight, one of whom happened to be the son of the owner of Paul’s national security firm—who blasted off a company-wide email with the subject line, “Who’s this character?”
Paul’s regional manager fired him Thursday morning after offering an ultimatum: Either keep working here and stop farting or you don’t have a job anymore.
Which struck me as an easy decision for an adult.
“I decided to go with the fart content,” Paul says matter-of-factly. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”