A documentary about Jack Rebney, the irate foul-mouthed star of the viral ‘Winnebago Man’ outtakes video.
If you’re not familiar with the source material I’d recommend seeking it out1, it’s one of my favourite videos online. They are trying to shoot an ad in the 80s, selling RVs. It’s really hot, it’s really sweaty, there are flies everywhere and Jack is just getting more and more wound up. His grumpiness caught the eye of the camera crew so they made copies of the outtakes and it did the rounds as a sort of pre-internet hit, copied from VHS to VHS between friends. Once YouTube came about it was inevitable that it’d find an audience on there.
After his career at Winnebago he dropped off the radar, and the filmmakers here had to go to some lengths to get any details about him. When they do, they find him living a reasonably reclusive life in a cabin in the woods on top of a mountain in Northern California. Initially he appears to have found some sort of zen, but it later transpires that he was faking it for the cameras and he still very much has that rage in him.
He doesn’t want to talk about his past or where he’s from, but there are a few moments where it feels like he might open up and the filmmakers interrupt too soon.
That aside, the film delivers on its promise of connecting Jack with his audience and showing him how much happiness the video brings to people.
At first I was surprised at the eloquence and unpretentious intellect shown in the documentary but actually, thinking about the original video more, it’s obvious that he has a way with words. It’s his poetic use of profanity and his complete willingness to creatively express his rage that chimes with people. As someone said in the film, we all have that in us when things aren’t going our way.
Jack Rebney died aged 93 just the other day, I hope he’s giving them hell up in heaven.