The internet’s next viral star is a security guard at a Florida hospital who spent the last six months publicly logging his sonically-perfect farts on Instagram. Now he’s poised to turn his flash-in-the-bedpan success into a lucrative brand that can be summed up by his Instagram bio: The Fart Authority.
His first name is Doug (he declined to give VICE his last name, or the name of the hospital), but the Kevin James-looking everyman is known on his 20,000 follower-strong Instagram account as Paul Flart, a stinky offshoot of mall cop Paul Blart. On Wednesday, a video compilation of his most memorable ass clappers earned over 374,000 views after shooting to the top of Reddit’s r/videos forum. Now he has followers from all over the world. “It transcends all languages. There’s no translation necessary, it’s just funny” he told VICE over the phone.
For those who can tolerate the nearly two-minute saga of sphincter sirens, it’s hard not to start analyzing the different aspects of Flart’s gaseous aural output. They range from short and flat zaps, like snare drums, to long and sonorous anal bellows. Many in the YouTube comments of the video are drawn in by pure disgust, but report howling with laughter by the time it ends. "It's like listening to a romantic audiobook narrated by Terrence & Phillip," one commenter muses.
It all started when Flart moved to Florida from New Jersey to help his mother after his father passed away. He noticed a lot of security jobs in the area, and decided to get his license. Working at an area hospital was his second gig in the biz, and he says management liked his funny-guy personality so much they wanted him to be the first point of contact for visitors. He's charming on phone, and it's easy to imagine him offering a pleasant greeting at an anxiety-inducing place like a hospital. “I’m always making people laugh, making people smile,” he said. He moved from a third-shift patrol to the front desk, where there were plenty dead hours in between the busy ones.
During a lull in the shift, Flart had an epiphany. “The lobby has really great acoustics, and naturally, we all fart. One day I ripped a rather nice one and got really good sound from it, so the next time it happened I recorded it and sent it to my group chat,” he said. Flart’s friends loved it, and suggested he take his show on the information superhighway. They helped him brainstorm names until Paul Flart was suggested, and it stuck.
On March 25, 2018 he posted his first bottom burp to Instagram. For six months, he farted through his shifts at the hospital, publishing each for a small but loyal crowd that grew to 500 Instagram followers. Then, much like his flatulence, his follow count exploded.
On August 19, Flart jumped from 500 followers to 5,000. The cause? His videos had been compiled and published on social media accounts for the popular men’s interest site Barstool Sports. Less than a week later, he’s nearly quadrupled that sum. His followers’ comments are devoted to enthusiastically describing each slice of freshly-cut cheese. “Just a leetle toot,” wrote @ceytsprivetdrv on one. “That was a wet fart,” @nick_drumtechnick waxed eloquent on another.
Flart said since his explosive rise in followers, the feedback in his DMs has grown even more personal. “I’ve had people from Holland and Germany and the UK sending me DMs and saying it’s the greatest thing ever. This is brightens their day. Some people said their week has been so shitty and then they find my videos and then they're laughing and they're happy about it and it brings them joy, which to me is great. Like I'm all about that. I couldn't ask for better stuff," he said. "Um, I had a guy, I'm sure he was joking, but he's like, 'I stopped doing heroin for you.'"
Fame, of course, isn’t free, and Flart has paid the price. When he arrived to work Thursday morning, he was asked to turn in the badge and uniform that have become iconic set pieces in his fartwork. He live streamed his firing on Instagram...
The footage above could be ripped straight from Office Space. His supervisor asks him to stop recording. He calmly declines. His supervisor points out that he violated the private security company’s policy about using phones on the job “an unusually high amount of times.” On top of that, he recorded himself while wearing the company uniform on a client’s private property. Flart denies nothing, refuses to sign the report detailing his behaviour—”It’s irrelevant, at this point”—and walks away.
Flart’s so calm because he’s already thinking about the next steps of his viral career. “My thought process is just run with this and see where this goes,” he said. He’s already making Paul Flart merchandise. He’s enlisted friends who make music videos and do graphic design to take him to the next level. He figures it’s just a matter of time before he starts getting letters from viral star managers, like Roy Purdy career-maker Sam Leigh.
“We live in a society where this is the big popular thing right now, but next week, unless I'm doing more than keeping it going, it's going to be nothing,” he said. “We’re going to keep making content. We can do Paul Flart on vacation, you know, throw in like a Hawaiian shirt and a hat of some sort and then just fart around Florida. We’re just going to keep going.”
Doug has realized who he really is: he's Paul Flart. To riff on AndréGide, maybe it’s better to be fired for being who you are than employed for who you are not.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.