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Pop CultureMay 6, 2016

‘I Can’t Stop Farting’: a trip through the smelly world of extreme flatulence

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Calum Henderson watches I Can’t Stop Farting, a TVNZ On Demand documentary about those afflicted with bad smells and sounds.

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Sarah counts her farts. She keeps a daily tally, using a colour-coded system: red for “loud”, blue for “silent”, and green for “smelly”. On a bad day she farts 40 to 50 times, which is apparently almost 10 times more than normal.

The young Englishwoman talks about how she can’t stop farting in a documentary, available on TVNZ OnDemand, called I Can’t Stop Farting.

With more and more television being watched online it was only a matter of time before the dreaded “clickbait” spread to TV show titles. While not entirely inaccurate, I Can’t Stop Farting is the kind of sentence you’d expect to see in That’s Life! or the Daily Mail more than the hallowed pages of the TV Guide. But it’s definitely a thing now: I Can’t Stop Farting competes for attention on TVNZ OnDemand with another British documentary called The Boy Who Wants His Leg Cut Off (which screened on One last month).

Sarah’s excessive wind stems from a severe bout of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It means she rarely leaves the house, and never goes out socially. She describes the feeling as “the way you wring a flannel out … it feels like someone’s doing that to my guts. It’s not very nice.” She’s started chatting to a guy called Craig on a dating website for people called IBS. The website is called “Irritated Being Single”.

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The hour-long special is described in its blurb as a “darkly comic documentary about people whose lives are blighted by extreme flatulence.” The “dark comedy” seems to mostly come from the myriad fart sound effects which are used liberally throughout the show.

Unless they’ve clipped a little microphone to the back of the subjects’ pants, there’s no way they can be genuine farts.

It’s more likely they’ve been added in post-production, sourced from a CD called something like Now That’s What I Call Disgusting Fart Sounds Volume 2.

A lot of the show is comprised of the subjects’ own handycam footage. Another excessive farter called Steven is filmed walking from the bedroom to the bathroom by his wife. “There’s Steven’s rear end,” she narrates. “You shouldn’t have eaten that steak pie.” He goes on a fibre-free diet to try and curb his flatulence.

Later in the show he’s the one behind the camera, showing off his fibre-free pudding. “Melons and mango,” he says, filming the contents of his bowl. “And there’s the other melons,” he adds, turning the camera on his wife’s chest.

I Can’t Stop Farting is one of the growing number of online-only shows on TVNZ OnDemand. While some are worth digging out, this one is there, presumably, because it’s not really fit for broadcast TV. One’s core audience rarely change the channel, but if anything was going to inspire them to lunge for the remote it’d surely be the sight of a bloke lumbering around farting all over the place in his jocks.

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The final subject, “shameless farter” Dawn, wants to get her bowels under control in time for her wedding day. “It’s a very posh venue and my main fear is farting there,” she confesses. One thing that aggravates her excessive farting is the stress of raising a teenage daughter, who at one point screams “it’s not my fault you’ve got a bad stomach!” before kicking a wall.

On a cocktail of natural remedies, Dawn makes it through the posh wedding ceremony. Afterwards she lets it all out: “my very first Mrs Smith eggy fart,” she beams up at her new husband.

“I love Dawn with her wind and everything else, always have done and always will do,” says Mr Smith.

Quite heartwarming, in a way. And always there on TVNZ OnDemand if you ever want to watch – and hear – it.

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