Winnebago Man


1h 22m 2009

Brief Synopsis

Jack Rebney is the most famous man you've never heard of - an RV salesman whose hilarious, foul-mouthed outbursts circulated underground on VHS tapes in the 90s before turning into a full-blown Internet phenomenon, seen by more than 20 million people worldwide. Filmmaker Ben Steinbauer g s in search

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Biography
Comedy
Documentary
Release Date
2009
Distribution Company
Kino International

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 22m

Synopsis

Jack Rebney is the most famous man you've never heard of - an RV salesman whose hilarious, foul-mouthed outbursts circulated underground on VHS tapes in the 90s before turning into a full-blown Internet phenomenon, seen by more than 20 million people worldwide. Filmmaker Ben Steinbauer g s in search of Rebney - and finds him living alone on a mountain top, unaware of his fame. A look at viral culture and an unexpectedly poignant tale of one man's response to unintended celebrity.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Biography
Comedy
Documentary
Release Date
2009
Distribution Company
Kino International

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 22m

Articles

Winnebago Man - Ben Steinbauer's 2010 Documentary about "The Angriest Man in the World"


Jack Rebney may not be a household name, but to a small, fervent following he's a cultural icon, known as "The Angriest Man in the World" or simply "Winnebago Man." His unique fame is the result of the original viral video, a montage of invective-laced outtakes from a Winnebago sales video that corporate pitchman Rebney wrote, produced and hosted. He flubs and forgets lines, fights with uncooperative panels and doors, lobs sarcastic comments at an unseen intern named Tony and lets his frustration pour out in uncensored streams. Originally passed around hand-to-hand on VHS tape dubs, it became a web sensation when some enterprising fan uploaded it to YouTube. What made the piece so much fun is not the language or the ire of the tirades, it's Rebney's delivery: ever the professional, he turns his tirades into a kind of performance art with a mix of creative cursing, self-effacing humor, crisp articulation and theatrical flair, much of it directed at himself.

Ben Steinbauer's portrait of the man and the phenomenon begins as a documentary cliché: "Who was this guy and where did he come from? I decided to find out," he muses to the camera. Unable to find this elusive character (a private detective finds little more than a string of P.O. Boxes in Rebney's name), he tracks down the video crew (including Tony the Intern) and learns that they put together the original montage out of their own frustration and it got Rebney fired when someone slipped it to the Winnebago honchos. Steinbauer's search has the obligatory feel of a filmmaker falling back on the familiar tropes of a documentary detective story. But when he finally makes contact and accepts an invitation to visit Rebney, the film finally finds its real story: a character piece on a genuine character.

The Rebney we first meet is a friendly, welcoming, seemingly centered senior citizen living practically off the grid in the hills outside of Redding, CA.. A broadcast professional for years, his comfort in front of the camera is evident from his first scene, calmly speaking in an easy, inviting voice with a clarity that any voice-over artist would envy. He practically takes over the film when the camera is one him. He confesses to Steinbauer that he's aware of the viral video and is bemused by the notoriety: "for the life of me, truly I don't understand its popularity," he smiles. But weeks later, when he starts calling the filmmaker, he confesses that it was all an act, a way to disarm and perhaps discourage Steinbauer. There's another Rebney beneath that calm front and welcoming demeanor, a self-proclaimed "crotchety old man" who is still sharp-tongued and angry and sees this film as a platform to get his ideas out there -- and he's got plenty of them.

What makes the film so enjoyable is how it keeps defying expectations in its survey of the rough edges, sharp mind and iconoclastic personality of Rebney. Where so many documentaries on eccentric personalities become a kind of freak show for the viewers, "Winnebago Man" does just the opposite, getting the surface eccentricities out of the way to find the human being behind the reputation and the front he shows to the public. What's missing is Steinbauer confronting his own confused motivations as diligently as he digs into Rebney. Apart from a few self-indulgent asides, he never really explores what his intentions were as he embarked on the project. For that you have to read between the lines as an unlikely friendship develops between the young hipster filmmaker Steinbauer and the aging lone wolf Rebney over the course of the project. As they spend more time together, Steinbauer's focus shifts from prompting Rebney to make provocative statements to observing the way his curmudgeonly front melts when he talks one-on-one with the fans of the YouTube video at a film festival. Ready to put on a show for the folks and play his part, he is genuinely moved by the attention and the affection of the audience members and (apart from a few pointed remarks about Donald Rumsfeld) drops the act to simply talk with these folks. By the end, even the filmmaker's motivations seem beside the point.

Like most contemporary documentaries, Steinbauer shot his production on HD video, with handheld cameras and minimal lighting, so the production value is negligible. Kino's DVD looks just fine given that. The disc also features the original, complete 25-minute Winnebago Sales Video (which shows Rebney at his best: professional, commanding, confident) and an entertaining but superfluous 16-minute featurette on the film's New York City Premiere with special guests Michael Moore and Jeff Garlin introducing the film.

For more information about Winnebago Man, visit Kino Lorber. To order Winnebago Man, go to TCM Shopping.

by Sean Axmaker
Winnebago Man - Ben Steinbauer's 2010 Documentary About "the Angriest Man In The World"

Winnebago Man - Ben Steinbauer's 2010 Documentary about "The Angriest Man in the World"

Jack Rebney may not be a household name, but to a small, fervent following he's a cultural icon, known as "The Angriest Man in the World" or simply "Winnebago Man." His unique fame is the result of the original viral video, a montage of invective-laced outtakes from a Winnebago sales video that corporate pitchman Rebney wrote, produced and hosted. He flubs and forgets lines, fights with uncooperative panels and doors, lobs sarcastic comments at an unseen intern named Tony and lets his frustration pour out in uncensored streams. Originally passed around hand-to-hand on VHS tape dubs, it became a web sensation when some enterprising fan uploaded it to YouTube. What made the piece so much fun is not the language or the ire of the tirades, it's Rebney's delivery: ever the professional, he turns his tirades into a kind of performance art with a mix of creative cursing, self-effacing humor, crisp articulation and theatrical flair, much of it directed at himself. Ben Steinbauer's portrait of the man and the phenomenon begins as a documentary cliché: "Who was this guy and where did he come from? I decided to find out," he muses to the camera. Unable to find this elusive character (a private detective finds little more than a string of P.O. Boxes in Rebney's name), he tracks down the video crew (including Tony the Intern) and learns that they put together the original montage out of their own frustration and it got Rebney fired when someone slipped it to the Winnebago honchos. Steinbauer's search has the obligatory feel of a filmmaker falling back on the familiar tropes of a documentary detective story. But when he finally makes contact and accepts an invitation to visit Rebney, the film finally finds its real story: a character piece on a genuine character. The Rebney we first meet is a friendly, welcoming, seemingly centered senior citizen living practically off the grid in the hills outside of Redding, CA.. A broadcast professional for years, his comfort in front of the camera is evident from his first scene, calmly speaking in an easy, inviting voice with a clarity that any voice-over artist would envy. He practically takes over the film when the camera is one him. He confesses to Steinbauer that he's aware of the viral video and is bemused by the notoriety: "for the life of me, truly I don't understand its popularity," he smiles. But weeks later, when he starts calling the filmmaker, he confesses that it was all an act, a way to disarm and perhaps discourage Steinbauer. There's another Rebney beneath that calm front and welcoming demeanor, a self-proclaimed "crotchety old man" who is still sharp-tongued and angry and sees this film as a platform to get his ideas out there -- and he's got plenty of them. What makes the film so enjoyable is how it keeps defying expectations in its survey of the rough edges, sharp mind and iconoclastic personality of Rebney. Where so many documentaries on eccentric personalities become a kind of freak show for the viewers, "Winnebago Man" does just the opposite, getting the surface eccentricities out of the way to find the human being behind the reputation and the front he shows to the public. What's missing is Steinbauer confronting his own confused motivations as diligently as he digs into Rebney. Apart from a few self-indulgent asides, he never really explores what his intentions were as he embarked on the project. For that you have to read between the lines as an unlikely friendship develops between the young hipster filmmaker Steinbauer and the aging lone wolf Rebney over the course of the project. As they spend more time together, Steinbauer's focus shifts from prompting Rebney to make provocative statements to observing the way his curmudgeonly front melts when he talks one-on-one with the fans of the YouTube video at a film festival. Ready to put on a show for the folks and play his part, he is genuinely moved by the attention and the affection of the audience members and (apart from a few pointed remarks about Donald Rumsfeld) drops the act to simply talk with these folks. By the end, even the filmmaker's motivations seem beside the point. Like most contemporary documentaries, Steinbauer shot his production on HD video, with handheld cameras and minimal lighting, so the production value is negligible. Kino's DVD looks just fine given that. The disc also features the original, complete 25-minute Winnebago Sales Video (which shows Rebney at his best: professional, commanding, confident) and an entertaining but superfluous 16-minute featurette on the film's New York City Premiere with special guests Michael Moore and Jeff Garlin introducing the film. For more information about Winnebago Man, visit Kino Lorber. To order Winnebago Man, go to TCM Shopping. by Sean Axmaker

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Winner of the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the 2009 CineVegas Film Festival.

Released in United States 2009

Released in United States July 9, 2010

Released in United States Summer July 9, 2010

Released in United States 2009 (Pioneer Documentaries)

Released in United States 2009 (Silver Spectrum)

Released in United States 2009 (Spotlight Premieres)

Released in United States 2009 (World Showcase)

Released in United States July 9, 2010 (New York City)

Released in United States Summer July 9, 2010