In 1989, Daniel Neman, a staff writer at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, began counting flatulence jokes in movies, beginning with the lovable cop-and-dog buddy comedy K-9. This year, thanks to Nacho Libre and Click, his list of movies with funny farts has reached a milestone of 100 (that seems surprisingly low). So, to celebrate, he has written a little piece in his paper about the overused gag, which he claims made its first appearance thirty years ago in Blazing Saddles. Basically he tells us what we should already know: flatulence isn't actually funny, especially not after more than 100 movies. So why do filmmakers continue to include flatulence for comedic effect? Neman blames film school, that place where he says future writers and directors learn to copy what has been done before. In fact, according to him, the entire lack of originality in Hollywood these days is because of film school.
Well, I kinda see Neman's point about film students being too obsessed with the filmmakers who came before them, but if film school graduates were actually copying the greats that much, then today's movies would probably be better than they are. Anyway, I went to film school, and I don't recall a class that taught flatulence. Maybe in the ten years that I've been out of school it was added to the curriculum, but I doubt it. The kinds of movies that use fart jokes, except for maybe Blazing Saddles, are just not the kind studied at film school.
So what could be the real reason screenwriters put the gag into their scripts? Easy answer: People still laugh at it. Even if we know it isn't really funny we still sometimes laugh. Especially if we're 10, and exist in the demographic to which Hollywood caters.