Although it is likely that flatulence humor has long been considered funny in cultures that consider the public passing of gas impolite, such jokes are rarely recorded. An important early text is the 5th century BCE play The Knights by Aristophanes which has numerous fart jokes. Another example from classical times appeared in Apocolocyntosis or The Pumpkinification of Claudius, a satire attributed to Seneca on the late Roman emperor:
He later explains he got to the afterlife with a quote from Homer:
In the translated version of Penguin's 1001 Arabian Nights Tales, a story entitled "The Historic Fart" tells of a man that flees his country from the sheer embarrassment of farting at his wedding, only to return ten years later to discover that his fart had become so famous, that people used the anniversary of its occurrence to date other events. Upon learning this he exclaimed, "Verily, my fart has become a date! I shall be remembered forever!
One of the most celebrated incidences of flatulence humor in early English literature is in The Miller's Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer which dates from the 14th century. The character Nicholas hangs his buttocks out of a window and farts in the face of his rival Absolom. Absolom then sears Nicholas's backside (or "ers", meaning "arse") with a red-hot poker:
François Rabelais' tales of Gargantua and Pantagruel are laden with acts of flatulence. In Chapter XXVII of the second book, the giant, Pantagruel, releases a fart that "made the earth shake for twenty-nine miles around, and the foul air he blew out created more than fifty-three thousand tiny men, dwarves and creatures of weird shapes, and then he emitted a fat wet fart that turned into just as many tiny stooping women.
Benjamin Franklin, in his open letter "To the Royal Academy of Farting", satirically proposes that converting farts into a more agreeable form through science should be a milestone goal of the Royal Academy. In Mark Twain's 1601, properly named [Date: 1601.] Conversation, as it was the Social Fireside, in the Time of the Tudors, a cupbearer at Court who's a Diarist reports:
The Queen inquires as to the source, and receives various replies. Lady Alice says
In the 1940s a clandestine record called "The Crepitation Contest" was produced, allegedly by Canadian Broadcast Corporation staff (narration by sportscaster Sidney S. Brown, who identifies himself in the closing seconds of the original unedited recording, and "sound effects" by his producer, Jules Lipton). The recording is in the manner of a seemingly real radio broadcast of a live sporting event, complete with pre-game interviews of the contestants (the “champion”, Lord Windismere and the challenger, Paul Boomer), detailed descriptions of all aspects of the competition as it unfolds, including the rules and traditions associated with the sport, play-by-play reporting, and crowd sounds reacting to the drama. The listener also hears a game official on the field as he announces scores attributed to the flatulence sounds emitted by each contestant in the competition.
A whoopee cushion, also known as a poo-poo cushion and Razzberry Cushion, is a practical joke device that produces a noise resembling a raspberry or human flatulence. It is made from two sheets of rubber that are glued together at the edges. There is a small opening with a flap at one end for air to enter and leave the cushion.
To use it, one must first inflate it with air and then place it on a chair. An unsuspecting victim sits on the whoopee cushion, forcing the air out of the opening, which causes the flap to vibrate and produce its distinctive sound.
The item was invented in 1930 by the JEM Rubber Co. of Toronto, Canada, by employees who were experimenting with scrap sheets of rubber. The owner of the company approached Samuel Adams, the inventor of numerous practical jokes and owner of S.S. Adams Co., with the newly invented item. Adams said that the item was "too vulgar" and would never sell. JEM Rubber offered the idea to the Johnson Smith Company which sold it with great success. S.S. Adams Co. later released its own version, but called it the "Razzbery Cushion."
The whoopee cushion has been in numerous books and TV shows.
In the 1990s, a new era of technology opened, as self-inflating whoopee cushions (which use a springy foam to draw in more air) and remote-controlled whoopee cushions (electronic devices) were introduced.