Directed By: John Magnuson
Starring: Lenny Bruce
Trivia: The audio for this film was derived from a recording of one of Lenny Bruce's routines
Like The 2000 Year Old Man, Thank you Mask Man, an animated short originally produced in 1968, contains audio from a live performance in which comedian Lenny Bruce attempts to answer the age-old question: Why did the Lone Ranger never wait around for townspeople to thank him?
Running a scant 8 minutes, Thank You Mask Man begins with Mr. DeAngelo (voiced by Bruce, as are all the characters in this film) trying to show the Lone Ranger some gratitude for saving his town. Each time he attempts to do so, however, the Masked Man rides off, refusing to accept any gifts. After a while, Mr. DeAngelo, whose mother went to the trouble of baking the Lone Ranger a cake, gets pissed off, and orders one of his neighbors to fetch the ungrateful hero and bring him back. When asked why he rides off so quickly, never accepting any thanks, the Lone Ranger launches into a story, the morale of which is he’s afraid too much gratitude will go to his head. With the townsfolk still insisting he accept at least one present for his good deeds, the Lone Ranger finally acquiesces, and makes a very shocking request.
With its abrasive language and an ending that many view as homophobic (while the gay community itself was initially critical of the short, it has since played at a number of gay and lesbian film festivals), Thank You Mask Man was every bit as controversial as the comedian whose work inspired it. In one instance, it’s said the film even cost a Texas theater programmer his job (he was supposedly fired when patrons complained to management that the movie was inappropriate). Yet, while it’s sure to ruffle a few feathers, there’s no denying Thank You Mask Man is a very funny cartoon, featuring Bruce at his rapid-fire best, tossing off jokes and one-liners at an incredible pace (he talks so quickly at times that it took me 3 viewings to figure out what he was saying).
A hilarious spoof of the legendary western hero that also shines a light on such topics as egotism and intolerance, Thank You Mask Man gives us Lenny Bruce at the absolute top of his game, which, in my opinion, is reason enough to see it.