By the time he became a YouTube celebrity earlier this decade, Jack Rebney had already established himself as a cult phenomenon in the 1990s. He found his fame courtesy of copied and recopied VHS tapes in circulation that depicted the mustachioed Winnebago salesman going off on angry profanity-filled rants between takes of an infomercial shot for the famed RV company in 1988. Once YouTube launched, it didn’t take long for the film to surface for all the world to see. Carefully pieced together and circulated amongst the crew on the shoot as well as their friends, the 4-minute outtakes reel of Rebney paints the portrait of an angry, extremely foul-mouthed, unpredictable man set to explode at any moment. As a result, the star became the stuff of legend, and quotes from the outtakes have been used on everything from episodes of 30 Rock and Spongebob Squarepants to the Hollywood blockbuster Iron Man 2.
So unfolds the compelling documentary Winnebago Man, which marks the directorial debut of Austin-based filmmaker Ben Steinbauer. After some soul-searching, Steinbauer decides to seek out Rebney to find out who and where this internet phenomenon is today, how much he knows about his YouTube stardom, and what he would tell his admirers were he ever given the opportunity. What unfolds is a story too bizarre, unique, and hilarious to be anything but real life. Steinbauer does find Rebney, and their discussions provide some of the funniest, genuine moments in a documentary since American Movie. Rebney alone is worth the cost of admission. But just as fascinating are the moments when fans are given the chance to express their appreciation to him, and the ultimate effect these words have on the cynical cyber-star.
The LFC had the pleasure of taking part in a free pre-screening of Winnebago Man on July 13 at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge. It opens for a full run at the Kendall Square Theater on Friday, July 23. For its honesty, ingenuity, and subtle Jack Rebney star power, we highly recommend this independent gem which has already seen major success in the film festival circuit, including South by Southwest (SXSW) and Toronto’s famed Hot Docs. Tip: If you’re able, check out a screening featuring a Rebney guest appearance as he tours with the film!