Tag Archives: farting

Farting in Italy, nudity in Canada and the dead in the trenches of World War I

Blood-red poppies pour out of the Tower of London

Blood-red ceramic poppies pour out of the Tower of London

Today is Remembrance Day.

I forgot until I switched on the BBC News after lunch and saw the Tower of London’s moat filled with the 888,246 ceramic poppies.

There are two unrelated posts in this blog today – about cultural events in Italy and Canada. It ends with poppies in Vancouver.

My farting chum Mr Methane has returned to the UK bearing a gift for me: a fridge magnet of Pope Francis – the only current world religious leader to bear a striking resemblance to 1980s British TV gameshow host Jim Bowen.

I mentioned in this blog last Friday that Mr Methane – who farts around the world professionally – was in Italy but I could not say why. This was because the Italian TV show he was appearing on wanted him to be a surprise for viewers and presumably they thought my increasingly prestigious blog, being widely read in Italy, might give the game away.

But now they have put the Mr Methane clip online on Vimeo, so I can tell you that, last Saturday, Mr Methane surprised the nation that gave us Punch & Judy and The Renaissance.

Mr Methane performed to an unprepared Italian nation on primetime Saturday night Television

Mr Methane performed to an unprepared Italian nation on primetime television last Saturday night…

It was, perhaps surprisingly, Mr Methane’s first appearance on Italian TV.

“Did the audience know you?” I asked him yesterday.

“There was a buzz as I entered from stage right,” he told me. “The sort of buzz that tells you people in the audience know exactly what you are going to do. I think this shows that the power of the internet and YouTube over conventional TV is growing.”

“Did the Italians,” I asked, “react in any different way from other countries?”

“Well, it’s definitely different from Norway, Sweden, Finland, France or Germany,” said Mr Methane, “but its hard to say how exactly. It was certainly a more open, intellectual and civilised approach to the subject than Simon Cowell could manage.”

(Mr Methane was invited to appear on Britain’s Got Talent in 2009. There is a clip on YouTube. It has currently had over 33 million views.)

“I think the nice bit on the Italian TV show,” said Mr Methane, “was the ending. We managed to wheel out a few old jokes that may possibly be almost as old as the fart joke which, you will remember, Michael Grade discovered was the world’s oldest joke

“The set up on Saturday was:

Panel:  Are You Married Mr Methane?

Me: No

Panel: I wonder why not.

“Then we all laughed hard at the razor-sharp wit of the judging panel while at the same time enforcing some social stereotypes and norms – a good thing to do on a traditional Saturday night family TV show and a good way of smuggling farting into the format.

“I was worried that the main host, Seniora Mara, might mess up on the cake routine as there had been no rehearsal but she positioned the candles very well for a first-timer. She seemed to have an empathy with what was going on. This could be because she has a degree in chemistry, but it is more likely because she is just an intellectual and open-minded European. I mean, could you imagine Amanda Holden being able or willing to pull that one off – She’d be worried shitless about her image etc etc etc.

Les Dennis on Cardiff Bay in 2010. But does he fart? (Photograph by Ben Salter/Wikipedia)

Les Dennis on Cardiff Bay in 2010. Does he fart dramatically? (Photograph by Ben Salter)

“In the early 1990s Bobby Davro told me that Les Dennis (Amanda Holden’s former husband) could perform the art of Petomania. I wasn’t sure if he was pulling my leg but about a decade later I was working on a Sky TV show with Les Dennis so I asked him about what Bobby had told me and he confirmed it was true although he said he had not tried it for a few years and didn’t know if he still had the abililty.

“So, to be fair on Amanda, as she lived with a man who possessed the gift of petomania, maybe – just maybe – I’m being a bit harsh about her ability to be able to hold candles up to a man’s arse while he farts them out. But what happens in the privacy of a person’s relationship should stay that way, so I can only speculate using the information available and come to the conclusion that while such a scenario was possible it probably never happened.”

“Did you try to speak Italian on the show last Saturday?” I asked.

“I spoke a little at the end to say Thankyou to the viewers but, for all I know, I could have been saying: I want to fuck a dead hamster.”

“What’s next?” I asked.

“A French TV show about super heroes is in the offing,” Mr Methane told me. “We just need to see if we can work the money and travel – I’m hopeful we can do as I really like the sound of the project and they seem to like the sound of me.”

Pope Francis on my fridge with a picture of my home town

Pope Francis on my fridge with a picture of my home town

“Thanks for the fridge magnet of Pope Francis,” I said. “Have you ever performed for any religious groups?”

“No,” said Mr Methane. “Although I was once thinking of reaching out to that market by releasing an album of faith-based recordings entitled Touching Cloth. In the end, I decided not to as I respect other people’s beliefs and would not want to offend them.”

Meanwhile, yesterday I also received news from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith.

She told me: “I met an exceptional 23 year old man this summer.

“It was in a park on the waterfront in Vancouver. He was apparently from Dublin, but wasn’t. He said his name was Eddie.

“I told him: There’s a song with your name – Eddie Don’t Like Furniture.

“He surprised me by saying: I HATE that song.

You KNOW that song? I asked.

I know it and I hate it, he said, clenching his teeth.

On Pender Island, there was a man who disliked furniture

On Pender Island, there was a man who disliked all furniture

“I met someone on Pender Island, near Vancouver, who reminded me of it. He hated furniture too – partitions, anything resembling furniture at all…. He ripped them all out…He did it to a caravan and he did it to a fiberglass motor cruiser – right down to the bulkheads. He even did it to a Boston Whaler. He tore all the seats out until there was nothing left but the hull and a shredded-looking steering column. Like a maniac, he steered it through the shipping lane across the Georgia Straight from Pender Island to Richmond standing up as if it was a scooter. He never wore belts or shoelaces. He thought they were bad for the circulation.

“When people sink boats deliberately I try not to become overly involved. I loaned somebody my axe once and I never got it back.

The ever interesting Anna Smith

Anna Smith is thinking of a book

“Maybe I should write a book with nothing but isolated paragraphs like that I think I could easily write a short string of striptease stories as I have told them many times over, just never written them all down.

“People do seem to enjoy those.

“The places I worked in… Very strange.

“I once performed a striptease at a library in Don Mills, an affluent suburb of Toronto. And I broke my foot flying off stage into a crowd of uranium miners in Northern Ontario. I was happy that happened on a Saturday, because it meant I only missed two shows out of the week.

“People in Vancouver are taking their clothes off in November for no particular reason and standing around outside the art gallery. The naked people are doing it because they want children to have a future and they told me it was not a protest but a Vigil for Vulnerability.

The Man in The Lego Mask & cape (Photograph by Anna Smith)

The Man in The Lego Mask & cape (Photograph by Anna Smith)

“I took photos.

“The man with the Lego mask and cape is Simon Leplante.

“He said he had made 50 of the Lego and chicken foot masks and given 48 of them away, mainly to women artists. He told me that he had performed a dance recently at a downtown nightclub and left the stage strewn with tiny bits of Lego.

“Outside the art gallery, the naked vigil enlivened the afternoon for a street vendor selling tourist trinkets. He shouted:

You gotta LOVE the art gallery!

People in Vancouver are taking off their clothes (Photograph by Anna Smith)

The Vancouver Vulnerability Vigil (Photograph by Anna Smith)

“The Vulnerability Vigil was originated by a woman from Victoria, British Columbia. The man in the photo with the tattoos is an art school model. They were very friendly and appreciative that I took many photos with their own cameras.

“Then a burly young security guard emerged from the art gallery but he did not call the police nor ask them to clothe themselves. He merely asked if they could move to a spot slightly to the west, as he said they were too close to the gallery restaurant.

“So they did.

“After I paid my phone bill I went to the library. There was an information fair outside the library where activists were promoting a movie about peyote and handing out stickers of opium poppies to remind us of the victims of all the wars.”

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Edward Snowden, Jihadi John, a farting Mr Methane & legless Eric Morecambe

Edward Snowden in Moscow yesterday

Edward Snowden in Moscow yesterday interviewed via Skype

Yesterday, at the Observer Ideas Festival in London, Edward Snowden was on a dodgy Skype link from Moscow.

After Jihadi John and that old Taliban bloke the name of whom everyone has now forgotten, he must be one of the most wanted (by some) men in the world. Last week, I also saw actress Linda Thorson reminisce at the Cinema Museum in London about her days on cult TV series The Avengers.

So should I blog about Edward Snowden or Linda Thorson or what my chum Mr Methane did in Manchester last Thursday?

A tough call?

Not at all.

The outstanding Mr Methane with some of his fans

The glamour world of Mr Methane with some fans

My chum Mr Methane has been farting around the world most of his career. He is the world’s only professionally-performing flautist – a farter to you and me. He became a cult in Sweden, Japan and elsewhere. He is also quite liked in France.

In November 1994, he was a guest on the French TV show Nulle Part Ailleurs (1990–2001) at the request of host Antoine de Caunes who had seen Mr M featured earlier that year on a celebrated French documentary series called Oeil Du Cyclone.

This consequently led to numerous appearances on the British Channel 4 series Eurotrash, which Antoine presented.

At the weekend, Mr Methane told me this: an insight into the glamorous daily life of an international flatulist:


Last Wednesday, I got a call from Antoine’s current Canal Plus TV show in France – Le Grand Journal – to ask where I was on Thursday as they were doing a Nulle Part Ailleurs celebratory show on Friday and they wanted to send a cameraman over to the UK to film a short message from me – with a fart scene at the end of course.

Mr Methane in a train at Crumpsall station, now on Manchester Metrolink

Mr Methane in his former guise in a train at Crumpsall station

As luck would have it, I was due to be in Manchester for a works reunion of former and current British Rail staff. (Yes, Mr M used to work for BR.) So Le Grand Journal booked a meeting room at the SAS Radisson hotel, Manchester Airport, flew a cameraman in from Paris, I diverted to the airport and we shot the scenes there.

I missed the British Rail reunion because, after the filming, I took David the cameraman to the Manchester United stadium tour at Old Trafford and, by the time I had made sure he could get on the tour and navigate his way back to the airport OK, it was a little late for the reunion.

So I went to the Dickies store in the Lowry Mall near Media City and bought some shirts and a jacket. The jacket was reduced to a fiver: an unbelievably good deal.

Dickie’s Store in Manchester

Dickie’s highly esteemed Store in Manchester

Maybe I should have gone and done some more hedonistic showbiz stuff – hookers and cocaine or somesuch – but that’s not really my thing. An unbelievable bargain from the Dickies store in the Lowry Mall is definitely more my thing. But, if that hadn’t done it for me, then I might have nipped over to the Blue Peter Garden near the Media City MetroLink tram stop and had a selfie with the statue of Petra the dog.

Talking of celebrity statues, a 32 year old bloke was arrested in Morecambe today for sawing Eric Morecambe’s leg off.

Me and Eric Morecambe on the seafront in happier days (Photo by M-E-U-F)

Me and Eric on the seafront in happier days (Photograph by M-E-U-F)

The local council has now removed the statue. I am not sure how they will repair it and whether the original sculptor Graham Ibbeson, will be involved. It is a real shame, as it is a great sculpture. He really nailed that one. It is a much better likeness than his Les Dawson statue near Lytham St Annes pier, which somehow isn’t quite right – or at least that’s what me and Charlie Chuck thought when we went to look at it on the way home from Ken Webster’s wedding reception at the HorseShoe Bar in Blackpool Pleasure Beach.

I’ve been back there a few times since on my own and for some reason he just hasn’t nailed Les like he’s nailed Eric, its fascinating as I can’t quite put my finger on why.

Eric’s statue took him six years and Les was six months so maybe that’s the reason but you can’t believe everything you read in the press. His Laurel & Hardy statue in Ulverston is very a good likeness.

The clip of Mr Methane on Le Grand Journal is online. Afterwards, they sent him an e-mail: “Just to let you know that the show went well last night.  You stole the thunder.”

Mr Methane congratulates the French

Mr M congratulates the show from the depth of his heart

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The problems of advertising farting and a very strange sighting of Noddy Holder

Mr Methane on The Gadget Show with cameramen Rob Shaw & Mark Tredinnick of Mediadoghire.

Mr Methane prepares to perform on The Gadget Show with cameramen Rob Shaw and Mark Tredinnick of Mediadoghire.

“According to some factoids that ran during my recent appearance on Channel 5’s Gadget Show, the average person passes wind 15 times a day,” Mr Methane told me last night.

I was staying overnight with the world’s only professionally-performing farter at his home in Macclesfield, north west England.

“I had to road-test these anti-flatulance underwear pants on The Gadget Show,” he told me. “they were called My Shreddies. They’re quite trendy: they look like Calvin Klein underpants.”

“Who wears them?” I asked.

“The marketing people aren’t going for the traditional person who might be ‘going off’ (in farting terms) all over the place because their arse muscles have packed up. They’re trying to attract a normal person who is going out on a date and doesn’t want to fart in case it ruins the romance. They can pass wind in confidence. There will be no smell.”

“And they stop the sound of the farting?” I ask.

“No,” admitted Mr Methane.

“So what,” I asked, “is the fart-combatting element in the underpants?”

An image from the My Shreddies homepage

Image from My Shreddies homepage aims to appeal to buyers

“Some kind of charcoal,” said Mr Methane. “I think if you’ve ‘gone off’ in them a few times, once you wash them, it reactivates the odour-eating properties. The My Shreddies people seemed to be over-awed by the amount of publicity they got from me being on The Gadget Show. They got in touch with me and had some promotional ideas. They were going to make a pair for me in purple and were going to have a picture of me on a train – because I used to be an engine driver. I asked for a very economical fee. But they said I was a bit beyond their budget. It is a classic example of the way people put no value into farting.”

“So you farted and parted,” I said.

“We did,” said Mr Methane. “A few years ago, some company wanted me to do a viral ad for some charcoal biscuits which, again, were anti-flatulence.”

“Did you eat them or stick them somewhere?” I asked.

“You ate them,” said Mr Methane, “and they obviously did something in your intestines. I’m not sure what. Anyway, this guy wanted to do a viral ad so I said: Give us £1,000. That’s not a lot of money for a viral ad. They said they were a small firm, but £1,000 is only £20 a week for a year. If they can’t put away £20 a week for a year, they don’t deserve to be in business. So that didn’t happen either and I’m still open to offers. I think, in terms of doing a viral ad, you’ve only got one chance. Once my bottom is endorsing a particular product, that’s it.”

“British Gas should approach you,” I suggested.

How to use The Palm Bomber

Instructions on how to use The Palm Bomber in reality

“The only thing I have done as a viral ad,” said Mr Methane, “ended up a real bum deal. It was for the Palm Bomber. You know like when people used to fart in their hands at school and throw it at their mates?”

“I think,” I said, “maybe this only happened at schools in Macclesfield.”

“It’s obviously happened in America too,” said Mr Methane. “He’s an American, but his father came from Manchester in England. He spent a load of money making this Palm Bomber thing like a medical pump. Basically, you break wind, you suck up the fart into this rubber surgical container and then you go up to your friend and you ‘palm bomb’ – you squeeze out the fart into his face. It’s on YouTube. (He turned to his computer.) Here it is. Here’s the selling line:

It is the world’s first and only product that is designed specifically to capture, store and re-release your farts. A patent-pending vacuum-funnel system which easily allows you to capture your farts anytime anywhere with minimal gas leakage.

“This guy had gone to China to get these things made and then had a shitload shipped from China to the US.

“I did an advert for him on YouTube. I did it as a favour. It was one of those mad moments. He said I can’t afford any money, but my dad’s got a paper for ex-patriots in America and I’ll put an advert for you in his paper and blah blah, but he never put it in. It’s just a classic case of people taking the piss.”

“I’m surprised,” I said, “that you haven’t been picked up for some ad campaign.”

“Years ago,” said Mr Methane, “I did a Christmas gig for Saatchi & Saatchi and my manager Barrie kept in touch with one of the big cheeses there and said: I want you to get Mr Methane an advert. You remember that series of Fosters lager ads? – He who drinks Australian thinks Australian. Barrie had this idea of me going into a bar, farting and it empties the bar and then I get my pint of Fosters and the slogan is: He who thinks Australian stinks Australian.”

“I’m surprised they didn’t use it,” I said then, changing the subject: “You haven’t issued a Christmas CD for ages.”

Mr Methane’s Christmas CD

Mr Methane’s professionally produced CD

“The bottom’s dropped out of the market,” said Mr Methane. “It has to be MP3s now. And Barrie’s a perfectionist. The amount of time that we put into the orchestration of the songs… the actual production costs are quite high. On the last one, a lot of the guitar work was done by a very famous producer who worked with Britney Spears; he did it under a pseudonym. And, on the track Fucking Hell, My Arse Smells (to the tune of Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells), we got the fiddle-player out of Steeleye Span. He happened to be visiting Barrie who told him he had a country music track and he needed country fiddle on it. I don’t know if, even now, he knows he’s on the album.”

“So no planned albums?” I asked.

“No, but my personal fart greetings are going well.”

“Ring tones?” I asked.

“No, I do a video and send it to them. I’ve done three this last week. I did one for a guy who’s retiring from a big American symphony orchestra. It’s going to be a gift to him from the horn section. I do a trumpet piece from Brahms’ Concerto for Something-or-other No 1.”

“And,” I said, “you have a prestigious gig coming up that we can’t talk about because you had to sign a confidentiality agreement. What do we say in my blog?”

“Say it’s for ‘old money’,” suggested Mr Methane. “The British aristocracy.”

“We can’t mention,” I said, “the family name, the location or why this is so jaw-dropping, except you did the same thing 16 years ago.”

Mr Methane sits on his toilet last night wearing an Alan Partridge mask - It seemed like a good idea at the time

Mr Methane sits on his toilet wearing an Alan Partridge mask last night – Don’t ask me why.

“I’m a sort-of semi-regular customer of the British aristocracy,” said Mr Methane. “You’ve been there yourself.”

“I suppose I can say I went with you to a house in Central London 16 years ago.” I said.

“You went to a large, private house,” suggested Mr Methane.

“Well,” I said, “it was quite a small place, but I think it cost £20 million.”

“You can say,” suggested Mr Methane, “it’s not yer new money Simon Cowell classes, not yer footballers or yer Piers Morgans; it’s the aristocratic backbone of Britain. People who know what made Britain great.”

“Any more TV?” I asked.

“I’ve was asked to do that Come Dine With Me TV show. I thought at first it was the celebrity edition, but then it turned out it was just a normal one and they were looking for fruitcakes. They wanted someone from Macclesfield who was a little bit different. When I found out it wasn’t the celebrity one and I wasn’t going to have dinner with Keith Chegwin, I lost interest. They said: For some reason, we’ve got a dearth of applicants from Macclesfield and we don’t know why.

“Who does live in Macclesfield?” I asked.

“Apart from one or two Manchester United players,” said Mr Methane, “there’s Christine & Neil Hamilton – they live at Alderley Edge. And Tim Healey off Auf Wiedersehen, Pet drinks at a pub in Fulshaw Cross. Mike Yarwood used to live in Prestbury. And Noddy Holder lives in Prestbury.”

Noddy Holder in 1981 (Photograph by Andrew King

Noddy Holder in 1981 (Photograph by Andrew King)

“Noddy Holder???” I asked, “I assumed he lived in some London mansion on the back of royalties from Merry Christmas Everybody.”

“No, he lives in Prestbury, because you sometimes see him in Sainsbury’s supermarket doing his shopping. My mate saw him last year at the Senior Citizens Hall on Duke Street, going to a jumble sale.”

“Are you sure this wasn’t a Noddy Holder lookalike?” I asked.

“No. He was at the jumble sale at Senior Citizens Hall.”

“What was he wearing?”

“My mate reckoned he might have been looking for stacker boots.’

“What did he look like?”

“Like Noddy Holder, but a bit older.”

ADDENDUM

Four days after this widely-read blog appeared, Mr Methane got an e-mail from the Palm Bomber, saying:

I won’t get into details – we’ll call it miscommunication – but the bottom line is that I did not fulfill my end of the agreement, and I’d like to make up for it. I’ve attached the last draft of the print advertisement I’d sent to you – is it still OK to print in the UJ newspaper?
 
Also, just so you know – we did run a couple Mr. Methane videos and links to your website in the Union Jack Blab (the online newsletter)…hopefully brought some viewers/fans your way.  I’ll forward you the emails shortly…
 
I didn’t intend to take the piss out of you, I think you are a genuine person and I fancy myself the same.  Hope you’re happy with what we’re doing.

The Palm Bomber’s print advertisement is below:

MrMethaneAd-Rev1

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Filed under Comedy, Eccentrics

Juliette Burton (an English rose actress) & farteur Mr Methane’s burning bottom

The Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award with Edinburgh Castle behind

The highly-coveted main Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award with Edinburgh Castle behind

The Edinburgh Fringe takes place every August but never ends. It is only three months since this year’s Fringe finished and a whole nine months to the next one. But already performers are starting to obsess. It is like having a baby – right down to people having occasional morning sickness with a feeling of nausea in the pit of their stomach.

Fortunately, as a non-performer, I do not have to suffer any of this.

I have already booked a venue for the two-hour 2014 Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show – on Friday 22nd August – and talked to a venue owner about doing a second year of chat shows in the lead-up to it.

Elsewhere, performers’ traumas reign.

Yesterday, a young starting-out stand-up comedian asked me:

“Can literally anything – ANY experience – be turned into a Fringe comedy show?”

“Yes,” I told her. “Janey Godley’s Good Godley! was the show everyone talked about in 2004. It was very funny and it told exactly the same story as her autobiography Handstands in The Dark which is so terrifying it reads like a novel by Edgar Allan Poe. In the book, the story is horrific; on stage, it was very funny without demeaning the story. But, then, Janey’s talent is that she doesn’t tell funny stories, she tells stories funny.

“And Juliette Burton’s Fringe show this year When I Grow Up had something unexpectedly shocking in it: you could almost hear people’s jaws dropping. It was a happy, uplifting show with a coup de théâtre in it.

“If you’re having really bad time with your boyfriend and the relationship is breaking up,” I said, “write it down. It’s cathartic and it could be turned into comedy gold in a couple of years, if not sooner.”

“Should I wait a week,” asked this would-be comic, “then I write it down so I can be objective about it?”

“No,” I advised her. “The last thing you want to do is write something objective. If something horrible happens, write it down straight away while the pain is still vivid. The writing-down of it distracts you a little from the pain and, when you look at it in 12 months time, you will find you’re objectively looking at something that seems like a stranger’s writing.”

“But you’re not a performer,” she pointed out. “What do you know about it?”

“Nothing,” I said, “but I can give bullshit advice plausibly.”

What you do not write is almost more important than what you do write. It is what you cut out that can give impact to what is left in. This is something known by the twice Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award nominee James Hamilton of comedy troupe Casual Violence.

Casual Violence - concentrated comedy

Casual Violence – surely everybody wants to see their sitcoms

He Facebooked a message yesterday about a one-off London show in January called Casual Violence: Nobody Wants To Make Our Sitcoms (Work in Progress). The blurb goes:

Join us for a low-key, super-informal script readthrough of two new sitcom projects that we’re working on – one for radio, one not for radio, both just for our benefit. We just want a bit of feedback so we can make them ourselves, for you. We’d like you to be our script editors. Come along, listen to our stories, have a drink with us afterwards and tell us what you think. Entry: £3 (entry fee is just to help cover the costs of the venue).

I have told them I will come along if they pay me £3.05p because, in comedy, it is seldom the performers who make the real money. It is the peripheral hangers-on.

Although, with luck, the aforementioned Juliette Burton might be an exception.

She is a combination of English Rose and whirling Tasmanian Devil type character with show ideas and promotional ideas spinning around her like a Wizard of Oz tornado. I had tea with her yesterday afternoon and most of the conversation I cannot repeat.

“What CAN I repeat?” I asked her.

“Well,” she replied, “as of today, it is confirmed that When I Grow Up is the first in a series of six live shows – and hopefully books and who knows what else? They will all be themed around identity – What makes a person? – The books depend on the interest I get from the proposal I have been asked to submit to a publishing company.”

Juliette’s new website lists her six shows as:

2013 – When I Grow Up
2014 – Look At Me
2015 – Dreamcatcher
2016 – an untitled show
2017 – Daddy’s Girl
2018 – The Butterfly Effect

“I am doing When I Grow Up at the Leicester Square Theatre in February,” she told me, “then touring it in Australia until May. There’s a new video promo for it.”

Juliette’s 2014 show Look At Me is going to be staged in association with the facial disfigurement charity Changing Faces, the body image charity B.O.D.Y. and the eating disorder charity B-eat.

Look At Me is billed as “a docu-comedy” (which is what When I Grow Up actually was) and, like When I Grow Up, will include video footage shot throughout the year – including interviews (the first is on 18th December) – and, in this case, the blurb goes:

By changing her appearance in dramatic (and hilarious) ways, Juliette will document how people react to her, how she feels and how she behaves. From wearing her glasses to being a man, from wearing a burka to dressing provocatively, from revisiting her “fat” self to being “old” and even going nude. Can we change who we are on the inside by changing who we appear to be on the outside? And is what we appear to be who we are?

I normally hate videos within live stage shows, but Juliette (a former BBC Radio journalist) showed with When I Grow Up this year that she can make it work smoothly and superbly.

Look At Me will also develop Juliette’s promotional blitz style with an accompanying pop song by Frankie Lowe, a pop video by Daniel Waterman, who directed her Dreamers (When I Grow Up) video, and who knows what else.

Juliette Burton seems to me to live a life of extremism.

With my chum Mr Methane, it’s a life of surrealism.

I got an e-mail from him last night.

Mr Methane pictured with Thomas Numme, Author - Jo Nesbo & Harald Ronneberg on a previous visit to the show.

Mr Methane pictured with (from left) Thomas Numme, author Jo Nesbo and Harald Rønneberg after a previous show visit

Tomorrow, he returns to the Senkveld med Thomas og Harald (Late Night with Thomas and Harold) TV show on TV2 in Norway.

He is making a special guest appearance with Robbie Williams and recently retired Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg on the 10th anniversary edition of the show.

In fact, the show was pre-recorded on 22nd November in front of an audience of 8,000 at the Oslo Spektrum stadium.

Mr Methane tells me: “I had a brief chat with Robbie Williams as I came off stage and he went on – that’s right I was his warm up man. He said he had once gone to see me at a gig in Newcastle-under-Lyme in the early 1990s.

“Between us, me and Robbie had both ends covered on this gig. Although we both grew up not too far from one another and we both tread the boards, other similarities are not readily apparent. However I can now exclusively reveal that we both like oatcakes.

“Last weekend I went back to Norway again – this time to Kristiansand – where I did a 25th birthday gig for the Norwegian importer of Umbro sportswear.”

Part of Mr Methane’s much-admired yet seldom imitated stage act involves farting-out the candles on a birthday cake.

He told me:

“The Norwegian boss wanted me to wear Umbro sportswear until I explained that I came from Macclesfield where the Humphrey Brothers of Wilmslow set up their first Umbro factory. (The name UMBRO apparently obscurely comes from the words hUMphrey BROthers.)

mrmethanebends

Methane’s mate’s mum made his costume

“My mate’s mum, who made my Mr Methane costume, was an Umbro seamstress so I told the Norwegian boss that, technically, I was already wearing Umbro kit.

“He was delighted, but that didn’t stop a rather drunken member of the audience slamming the birthday cake candles into my bottom, burning my arse and rather spoiling the big moment. I don’t know if he did it on purpose or just fell over because he was so drunk.

“But that’s Northern Europe for you: long cold winter nights and large amounts of booze.

“The next day, I got food poisoning at breakfast and had a rough journey home. I am now finally getting back on track. It is a big relief as I am on my last pair of pyjamas.”

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Humanity, humour, farting, eccentricity and tragedy at the Edinburgh Fringe

Sal Monello - a creator of fringes at The Fringe

Sal Monello – cutter of hirsute fringes at The Fringe

Yesterday morning at the Edinburgh Fringe, as Irish comedian Christian Talbot was trying to get me to talk coherently for his Seven 2 Ten podcast, I got a text message from American comedian Lewis Schaffer saying:

Sal, the comic barber, is cutting hair for free during the Festival.

Thus I later found myself in Fringe Central sitting on a chair with Sal Monello standing behind me holding sharp, pointed scissors saying:

“I come from Corleone in Sicily.”

“As in The Godfather?” I asked politely.

“Yes. My surname is not Monello… Monello means ‘villain’ or ‘naughty boy’. My father genuinely did escape from the Mafia. In my comedy set, I make it funny but it was rather tragic. My father was in the Communist Party and his name was put on a hit list in 1955 and he had to leave the country. They were going to kill him.

“Ironically, my dad killed himself when he was 66. He had managed to keep his life together while he was working and brought up us seven kids. The minute he retired, he thought Fuck, my life is over.

“He did all sorts of jobs: fork-lift truck driver, railway line worker, hospital porter. The job we liked best was when he worked in a chocolate factory. He used to cut my hair with clippers to keep the cost down and I ended up being a hairdresser. I’ve only been doing comedy for three years. My marriage broke down after 25 years. We divorced two years ago, but my wife left about three and a half years ago. She ran off with a Polish taxi driver. I still love the woman, that’s the problem – fucking damaged me. In order to stay sane, I threw myself into comedy, because you can totally absorb yourself in it.

“I set up gigs, performed and got so involved in it very quickly but, one day, I looked down at my shotgun – I shoot – and thought I’m going to kill myself.

“But then I had visions of him with his arm round her saying in a Polish accent: Oh, it is terrible tragedy. Clearly he was insane. He probably better off where he is. But now we have a lovely house and business.

“So I thought Fuck you, mate – I’m not going to shoot myself. And I didn’t.

“I stayed sane through comedy.

Sal had some cutting remarks yesterday

Sal Monello shared some cutting insights with me yesterday (photograph by Lewis Schaffer)

“When I started doing comedy, I quickly found people have to believe what you say.

“I actually lost my virginity to a whole family. I fucked a whole family when I was 17 – well, not the dad. But the mother – she was a widow – and her three daughters. I screwed all of them. That’s how I lost my virginity.

“If I tell people that on stage, they don’t believe me but I’ve learned that, if a say someone in my hairdressing chair has told me the story, they’ll believe me because they know people are prepared to talk to a hairdresser. I’ve got that unique angle: I can be anybody.

“I’m not doing a show at the Fringe this year but, next year, I want to do a show called A Free Haircut. I’ll get people up on stage and I’ll do a full haircut while telling stories.”

At this point, my former temporary Edinburgh flatmate Andy Zapp passed by:

“My gorilla is arriving tonight by plane,” he told me.

“He must be a very well-off gorilla,” I said.

“Yes,” said Andy Zapp.

“Is he a gorilla-gram?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Andy. “A stripper-gorilla-gram.”

A passer-by takes an interest in Mr Methane yesterday

A passer-by takes an interest in Mr Methane’s act yesterday

Then I went to see my new temporary Edinburgh flatmate Mr Methane’s first show at Bob’s Bookshop – part memories of his life professionally farting around the world; part fart demonstrations.

He had managed to get a full audience on his first day with little publicity. The outside door was left open for ventilation; passers-by occasionally looked through the window at what was happening in the front room of Bob’s Bookshop. Oddly, they only occasionally appeared surprised.

“Farting doesn’t get any easier,” he told his audience. “I’ve been doing this since I was 15. After school, I moved on to a sensible career on the railways, followed by a bit of japing around and then into full-blown – if that’s the right word – showbusiness when I was 25.”

As he lay back on the table and splayed his buttocks under his green and purple costume, he explained: “What we do is we open the sphincter muscle – you lads from Glasgow, we’re talking about the turd-cutter here.

Bob Slayer was saying to me last night Comedy isn’t easy. There’s a crafting. Comedians can work on a joke and it might not be funny for three years then, one night, they just change a couple of words or put a pause in and everyone laughs hysterically. It’s a craft. And then they see me come on stage, I get me legs in the air, I part me buttocks and rip one off and there’s a big laugh from the audience. It seems easy.

“But it’s bloody hard after you’ve farted for a bit to carry on talking. What I do is difficult and I do train a lot. It gets harder as you get older because your body gets less and less subtle. But I do a lot of yoga and stretching the hamstrings, trying to keep the abdominals tight which, at 47, is becoming difficult. Still, I think I’m in reasonable peak farting condition.

“I used to be able to do a full lotus position in yoga, though I can’t do it any more. But, when I could, I noticed I was naturally double-jointed and, when in this position, I could breathe both fore and aft.

Mr Methane, pumping prodigy, prepares to Fart A Dart

Mr Methane, the pumping prodigy, prepares to Fart A Dart

“At school, I became a pumping prodigy in the lunch hour. We used to break into the squash courts and I used to fart How Much Is That Doggie in The Window and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in exchange for pocket money.

“As you can see, I’ve not progressed 30 years later. A lot of people want to be on stage: Come over here! Look at me! I’ve always thought I want to be a train driver. But always I get pulled back to being on stage. I’m like a reluctant farter.”

If Mr Methane is a reluctant farter, Tim Fitzhigham is a wholehearted eccentric.

Tim Fitzhigham discussed increasingly prestigious eccentricity

Tim and increasingly prestigious eccentricity

I went for a chat with him last night after his Challenger show which has had extra dates added. We were talking about him appearing on the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show next Friday (23rd).

He is currently thinking about juggling ice on the show, although this may change, as I have already booked Mat Ricardo to juggle spaghetti.

We also talked about him appearing on my Fringe chat show next Wednesday afternoon, at which point he told me about an extra big charity show – only just announced – happening next Wednesday (11.59pm till late) at the massive McEwan Hall venue.

“I had a chat with Charlie and Ed who run it for the Underbelly venue,” Tim told me, “and they have given it to us for free.”

Tim occasionally does OTT gigs called Maxwell’s Fullmooners with Irish comic Andrew Maxwell. Next Wednesday’s charity gig is called PaulMooners: A Fullmooners Moontacular and co-stars Terry Alderton, Ed Byrne, Jason Byrne, Phill Jupius, Lady Carol, Glenn Wool – and John Bishop coming specially up from London for his only appearance at this year’s Fringe. Plus other names to be announced.

Why would they all appear on a Fullmooners show re-named PaulMooners?

Because the show is raising money for Paul Byrne, the highly-respected director of both Tim Fitzhigham’s Fringe show and Andrew Maxwell’s Fringe show. Paul, aged 36, has just discovered he has cancer – Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

“It was only diagnosed after the first Edinburgh show and we’re all more than a little bit shell-shocked,” Tim told me last night.

Paul Byrne has returned to London to embark on an intense course of chemotherapy. Tickets for next Wednesday’s Paulmooners charity show are £15 and can be bought from all five of the Edinburgh Comedy Festival box offices – Assembly, Gilded Balloon, Just The Tonic, Pleasance and Underbelly.

In the midst of comedy, real human life goes on.

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Exclusive! – Mr Methane reports from World Fart Championships in Finland

(A version of this piece was also published on the Indian news site WSN)

Mr Methane (left) and Championships presenter Phartman

Mr Methane (left) & Championships’ presenter Phartman

This morning, dramatic news from Finland via my professional farting chum Mr Methane.

Yesterday, at the first ever World Fart Championships in Utajärvi, Finland. the single and team events were won by two Russian friends, Vlad & Alex who had flown to Helsinki from Moscow and then made a five hour train journey to Utajärvi.

They had heard of the farting festival earlier this year on Mr Methane’s website and Vlad said to Alex: “There is a farting contest this summer in Finland. Shall we go ?”

Alex replied: “Yes we should.”

Vlad said: “There is more. Mr Methane is performing there.”

Alex is said to have replied: “Wow! I have already packed.”

Not unreasonably, they decided that the double whammy lure of a farting competition AND possibly meeting Mr Methane, their hero, was too good to miss.

“So,” Mr Methane told me this morning from Finland, “they came and won both prizes for Russia yesterday, establishing a new festival volume record in the bargain.”

Japanese fart battles of the 17th century

Documented air battles raged in Japan between 1603-1868

Admittedly, this was not difficult, as it was the first World Fart Championships, although the tradition of farting competitions goes back at least to 17th century Japan where, between 1603-1868 there were “He-gassens” – fart battles.

In the 199os, a collection of scrolls showing some of these bitterly-fought air battles was sold at Christie’s in London for $1,200.

At yesterday’s World Fart Championships in Finland, Mr Methane was not competing. He had been invited by the organisers as a farting icon and the inspiration to a generation of Finnish flatulists.

Before the event, presented by local entertainer Phartman, both Mr Methane and I had been a bit vague about how the organisers were going to make farting into a competition and how they were going to decide winners. All was revealed yesterday.

Winning Russian duo in the team event

Winning Russians Vlad (left) & Alex in the team event

“Contestants had to drop their trousers,” Mr Methane reported, “but they kept underpants on. There was a large egg timer and they had 30 seconds in which to fart. There was a decibel meter and a microphone in a pipe below the seat on which they sat. For team events, there was a double seat.

“Contestants had two attempts – not one after other – they went to the back of the queue. It was all about the volume.”

“How loud were the Russian winners?” I asked.

Mr Methane performed with backing from the local Utajärvi brass band

Mr Methane performed The Blue Danube to hushed crowds in Finland yesterday with backing from the Utajärvi brass band

“Sorry,” Mr Methane told me, “I can’t remember the exact decibel meter reading, but it was just under 90.”

“And the audience?” I asked.

“They were polite, enthusiastic and appreciative of my show which was the matinée intro to the Fart Championships themselves. I also closed the Championships with a long fart at the end.”

The Russians’ secret weapon

Russians’ secret weapon

“Did the Russians have any particular technique?” I asked.

“They told me they thought a particular Russian drink had helped them win the contest,” said Mr Methane. “It is non alcoholic but fizzy.”

It is called квас оцаковскии – kvass otsakovskii. Kvass is a fermented drink made from rye bread and is marketed in Russia as a patriotic alternative to cola.

Coca-Cola launched its own brand of kvass in Russia in 2008 and Pepsi has signed an agreement with a Russian kvass manufacturer to act as a distribution agent. So the kvass wars cannot be far off.

You read it first here.

Mr Methane tells me: “It tastes like fizzy Marmite. Vlad and Alex presented me with a bottle as a gift and then sang a couple of verses of my song Cut The Cheese (available to view on YouTube)”

“Did they get a prize?” I asked him.

The Russian winners and their prize

The Russian winners with part of their prize

“Yes,” said Mr Methane. “52 cans of nuclear pea soup, the fuel that Phartman uses. Their two straight event wins mean that they went back to Russia with 104 tins which could be a problem at the airport baggage drop. But the organisers put their prize in a wheelbarrow and gave them a lift to the station for the 11.00pm overnight train back to the south.

“The weather had looked a bit dodgy before the Championships – overcast and showers – but it brightened up once the farting started and the sun eventually shone.

“I stayed overnight in a disused mental asylum in middle of a forest with Phartman who turns out to be a psychiatric nurse. It is very Soviet Union. The mosquitoes in the woods around the mental hospital have bitten me nearly to death. I am now off to catch a plane. There are strong winds here at the moment.”

Mr Methane will be talking about his life farting around the world in his own full-length show at the Edinburgh Fringe in August and, unless discovered by Hollywood, will be performing at the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Awards Show on 23rd August.

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News of Edinburgh Fringe sexual organ props & the World Fart Championships

Martin Soan, an older man, but stylish in his Nigel Hall socks

Martin Soan (right) chats on Lewis Schaffer’s radio show

“I thought I was going to get away without building a sexual organ prop this year,” Martin Soan told me yesterday. “But the first order for a cock has come in today. It’s for a comedian going up to the Edinburgh Fringe.”

“Your FIRST order?” I asked. “How many do you normally get?”

“I usually get about two a year,” Martin told me.

As attentive readers of this blog will know, Martin was asked in May to perform the part of a vagina in a play. He is famed for The Naked Balloon Dance he created for the Greatest Show on Legs.

“What happened to your vagina part in the play?” I asked him this morning.

“The woman sent me the script, I read it and I politely told her I was not an actor.”

Martin was once asked to build a prop for a comedian which, he said, was an “all-singing-and-dancing talking vagina. I used silk. It had hair and eyes. It was really scary.”

He may not be an actor in the traditional sense, but he walks an ever-moving dividing line between being a comedian and a performance artist, a prop maker and a creator of stage fantasies.

mrmethanebends

Mr Methane flying off to fart in Finland

And, talking of unlikely career paths and fantasies, we have the case of my chum Mr Methane, the world’s only professionally-performing farter who is attending the first ever World Fart Championships in Utajärvi, Finland. They are being held this Saturday.

He flies off at noon today, but may arrive in Finland earlier than scheduled if there is a following wind.

“I’m surprised they’re having championships,” I said to him yesterday. “Surely it’s a talent rather than a sport?”

“I would say it could be both,” he told me. “It’s a sport in terms of my kind of farting – petomania – because performing a full show like mine is quite strenuous and it requires one to be farting fit. I think the talent is being able to control one’s emission.”

“That is always a bonus when in polite society,” I suggested.

“Sometimes,” said Mr Methane, “when I am introduced as a professional farter, the ladies do not fully take into consideration the fact that a pro can control his emissions. That is a positive over your average male, surely?”

“I certainly consider it thus,” I said. “But do foreigners really understand the joke? Indeed, is it a joke?”

“I am the man,” said Mr Methane, “who apparently blew the doors of censorship wide open for Swedish TV after my 1991 appearance on Robert Aschberg’s TV3 show.”

Mr Methane performed in front of guests including the country’s Foreign Minister.

“Things were apparently never the same again,” Mr Methane told me yesterday. “Or so I found out when I was invited as a guest on a Swedish style This Is Your Life TV show for Robert. The show’s producer wrote to Barrie, my manager:

When Mr. Methane visited Robert’s show Ikväll in the early 1990s he stunned a whole country. Some was amused and some were appalled by Mr. Methane’s talent however – it was television history. None in Sweden had before seen this kind of a show. Robert’s show was a predecessor and Mr Methane was the one guest that made it happen.

“When Martin Soan and Malcolm Hardee and the Greatest Show on Legs took The Naked Balloon Dance to Sweden in the early 1980s,” I said. “it was very popular there, but Malcolm told me he didn’t think the Swedes actually understood why it was funny.”

“I think Malcolm is partially correct but not entirely,” said Mr Methane. “If you watch the clip of Robert Aschberg crying with laughter and tears running down his face as I perform, it’s hard to believe that Swedes have no sense of humour. I think they tend to conduct themselves in a reserved fashion and this gives off that impression.

“Robert’s mate Gert Fylking, who held the microphone, could give the Greatest Show On Legs a run for their money. He was mental and did some really crazy things. But, then, he did attend a boarding school in Uttoxeter… His parents felt that an English education would be good for him and it obviously paid dividends.”

“Crazy things?” I asked.

“He had an enema-shitting contest,” said Mr Methane, “but his real party piece is jumping up and down on one leg, naked, until his cock spins round like a propeller. Both were performed on TV3 after they’d tested the limits with my act. He is a Christian Democrat politician now.”

Little House on The Prairie was a fine TV show

Little House on The Prairie was a fine TV show

“I used to work for TV3 in the UK,” I said. “It is a fine TV company. I think they screened Little House on The Prairie undubbed. Do you think any one nation more attuned to the true appreciation of your farts?”

“I guess my show is best received in Australia,” mused Mr Methane, “though some Australians are touchy about it because they feel that the world sees them as crude and rude when they are, in fact, a highly cultured nation.

“My 1997 appearance on the Channel 9 Footy Show apparently holds the record for the most complaints about an Australian TV show. People were calling in to complain from remote places out in the bush that weren’t even meant to get Channel 9’s signal. The switchboard apparently melted. The Sydney Morning Herald wrote:

The Footy Show panel turned to rubble, the studio audience was a mix of Animal House delight and gob smacked incredulity and the phones ran hotter than a Kate Fischer calendar.

“So what are you doing at the World Fart Championship in Finland?” I asked.

“At 47,” said Mr Methane, I’m past my competitive age, so I’m there as a The Godfather of Flatulence – an inspiration to those who follow in my footsteps – or wherever – A bit like you get the retired footballers on Match of the Day.

Johann Strauss was a fine Austrian composer

Johann Strauss II was a fine composer

“I will be doing a fully-blown show there, but I will be pacing myself. I will be going at my own speed, not sprinting to a finishing line in the shortest time and I will be accompanied by the Utajärvi Brass Band in a special rendition of The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss. I see my show as a mature wine that should be savoured and not rushed so one can experience the true aroma.”

“How can they judge farts at the Championships?” I asked.

“I’m not sure,” admitted Mr Methane. “You could have The Longest, The Shortest, The Fattest, The Thinest… Hang on, this is beginning to sound like the theme tune to Record Breakers.”

“Whither farting contests?” I asked.

“I think it is an event that could run and run,” said Mr Methane.

“Any helpful advice for actual contestants?”

“Relax… But not too much.”

“And after your visit to Finland?”

Bob’s Bookshop (left) is a fine venue

Bob’s Bookshop (left) is a fine venue at the Edinburgh Fringe

“As you know,” said Mr Methane, “ I am appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe, with My Life In Farting at Bob Slayer’s Bookshop venue at 3.30 every afternoon,  13th – 17th August… Ring-side seats are still available.”

“And you are staying in my Edinburgh flat for that week?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Mr Methane.

“Oh dear,” I said.

As I was about to post this blog, I got a mobile phone text from Mr Methane. It read:

“I’m hearing reports of a fart on The Archers. Not sure if true but, if so, you’d think they would have brought me in to do it. We both missed some publicity there.”

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