The audio for Thank You, Mask Man is taken from a stand up routine from Lenny Bruce, who ruthlessly, hilariously takes apart the legendary crime fighter. After years of getting saved by a masked hero on a white steed, the denizens of a small Western town corner him into accepting something, anything as a token of their gratitude. The hero points to a nearby Native American and says that he wants him. He proclaims that he wants “to perform an unnatural act.” The townspeople are horrified. “I’ve read a lot of exposes on how bad it is,” the Masked Man explains, “and I want to try it, just once.”
Jeff Hale, who later went on to animate that groovy Pinball Number Countdown bit on Sesame Street, made the short in 1968, two years after Bruce’s death. The movie had a hard time getting booked into theaters reportedly, in part, because Bruce ruffled more than a few feathers in the film industry. Ultimately though Thank You, Mask Man became a staple at gay and cult film festivals.
Bruce was, of course, the original bad boy comic. He laced his free form, lightning quick performances with frank discussions of sex, social issues and lots of swearing. Nowadays, F-bombs are par for the course in a comedian club but, back during the Kennedy administration, they were shocking. And they got him thrown in jail on several occasions. You can listen to another (unanimated) Bruce routine below. It’s completely NSFW.
You can find Thank You, Mask Man in the Animation section of our collection, 700 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..
Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow.