Meet Jack Rebney. You might know him already as the overheated RV pitchman whose profane outbursts during a 1988 ad shoot turned him into one of the Internet’s earliest stars, and now the subject of Ben Steinbauer’s riotous new documentary, “Winnebago Man.”
Created from outtakes by the RV video’s producers, his YouTube debut earned Rebney an exaggerated reputation as “The Angriest Man in the World.”
Mopping his sweaty brow, cursing unseen flies swarming his prized Winnebago, he forgets his lines and loses his cool, unwittingly sharing his meltdown with the world.
In person, Rebney is friendly, courteous and articulate. You wonder if the rage is a put-on, his way of feeding a legend spread by an army of Web surfers.
But once he gets going — a virtual certainty, given his propensity for animated gab — the irascible RV spokesman begins to emerge.
“It was nearly three years ago, my friend Keith called, asking if I’d pulled myself up on the Net lately,” said Rebney, 80, who now resides in a Northern California cabin near Mount Lassen, removed from the urban uproar he once knew as a big-city TV journalist.
“I said, ‘Don’t talk gibberish to me!’ He told me to check my computer — something called YouTube,” he said. “I was surprised. I asked him to play it for me, and sure enough, there I was. And that was the last I thought of it until Ben came to me with the idea of making this documentary.”
At 65, Rebney voluntarily retreated from the work force to lead a life of relative solitude, not to escape his online infamy — “Public opinion doesn’t trouble me greatly,” he says — but to spend his remaining years reading, writing and discovering the pleasures he had missed, in his words, for the previous 50.
“I don’t feel any notoriety,” he said. “Everybody bandies that word about, but if there is any notoriety attached to me, it would come from my professional exploits, some of which I’m proud of, some of which I’m not. It has nothing to do with that video.
“People who enjoy the video see, if not themselves, some sort of reflection. They recognize that guy, blowing his lines and incensed by the heat — they could be that person. Maybe they admire that I say what I say when I want to say it. It’s cathartic. But has it changed my life? Beyond the very warm experience of working with Ben and his crew, no. I live the life I’ve chosen.”
IF YOU GO
Starring Jack Rebney
Written and directed by Ben Steinbauer
Running time 1 hour, 25 minutes