Thank You Masked Man

Lenny Bruce

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Thank You Masked Man Review

by Lindsay Planer

Even though this long-player was initially issued half-a-decade after his death, the spirit of the insatiable Lenny Bruce is certainly alive and well on these eight routines, nine if you count the MPEG video file containing the seven-minute animated film Thank You Masked Man (1968). While the material had not been previously offered in its entirety, there is some repetition from former Bruce recordings. A primary example being the opener "The Sound," as the complete track is culled from several different live performances. While longer, it is still bleeped because of the litigious nature of Lawrence Welk. Just like "The Interview," which was first heard on Interviews of Our Times (1958). Because of the improvisational nature of Bruce's nightclub act, the sketches could (and occasionally would) veer off into uncharted territory at any given moment. The thoughtful editing actually fuses together several shows to create a significantly expanded plot line. In the presented context, "The Sound" adopts to the form of a B-movie as depicted by Bruce. The story is of a young (try three years old) wannabe jazz musician whose lack of talent makes him a prodigy destined for greatness. He ends up a strung-out junkie auditioning for a gig on the Lawrence Welk bandstand. Bruce's uninhibited use of racial stereotypes, sexual perversions, and liberal allusions to illicit substances would never have flown in the overly sensitive atmosphere of the 21st century. "Tarzan" is a sidebar from Bruce's imitation of Welk's voice as he compares Johnny Weissmuller to that of Welk. That sets up a classic and irreverent bit about bestiality, Jane, and Cheetah the chimp. The project's title work "Thank You Masked Man" is as much a study of human nature as it is a witty bit of repartee concerning the psychology behind the Lone Ranger's unwillingness to stay on scene long enough to be thanked by those he has assisted. "Tokyo Rose" packs a mighty wallop, even though it clocks in at under a minute. It is a brief ditty with a peppy piano accompaniment that derides the English-language female broadcasters who spewed Japanese propaganda during the Second World War. "Fat Boy" is taken from the acerbic point of view of a rural car salesmen and is notable for a few all-too-real names and references that had to be excised, presumably for legal reasons. "The Comics" is a surreal skit about managers and agents to the stars of the funny papers, while "Heshie the Monster" is an O. Henry-esque tale with a quite unexpected and peculiar conclusion. No one could be better "equipped" to parody the (then) new concept of kiddie shows than Bruce as the irascible and medicated "Captain Whackencracker" -- predating the likes of Krusty the Klown from The Simpsons television franchise by nearly thirty years.

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