Jack Rebney, viral 'Winnebago Man' and documentary subject, dies at 93
Jack Rebney, the foul-mouthed "Winnebago Man" who emerged as one of the internet's first viral personalities, died Wednesday at 93.
Ben Steinbauer, a friend of Rebney's and the director of the 2009 documentary Winnebago Man, confirmed the news to EW. The cause of death is unknown at this time.
"Jack has been living on the coast of Southern Oregon for the last several years, listening to MSNBC, CNN, ABC, and CBS on Sirius radio. And was preparing to produce some podcasts of a political nature," Steinbauer tells EW. "He had a faithful dog, Kiri, and a community of neighbors who looked after him. He hated flies right up until the end."
In 1988, Rebney, a former broadcast journalist, couldn't contain his anger while filming a commercial for Winnebago recreational vehicles. His profanity-laced eruptions frustrated the crew to such a degree that they compiled the commercial's most vitriolic outtakes and began circulating them via VHS tapes. Rebney's outbursts, as exasperated as they were explosive, proved irresistible to many viewers, leading many fans to dub him "the angriest man in the world."
After years of proliferating in the tape-trading community, the clip found a new audience via Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher's Found Footage Festival, a traveling show that celebrates "the videos that time forgot, dredged up in dusty thrift stores and estate sales throughout North America." After meeting one of the camera assistants from the Winnebago shoot, Pickett and Prueher got their hands on the raw footage and put together their own edit, which became the show-closing video for their 2004 live shows. It has since accumulated millions of views on YouTube and other online video streamers.
In Steinbauer's Winnebago Man, the filmmaker tracks Rebney to his home in a remote mountain area in California. Rebney proves to be a fascinating figure, articulate and deeply sensitive, but also, as you might expect, still angry. He's bothered by the spread of the video, but after seeing how much it delights attendees at a Found Footage Festival screening, comes to begrudgingly accept his viral fame.
"Jack was the holy grail of VHS heroes we wanted to meet but we were nervous he'd hate us or throw a punch," Pickett and Prueher tell EW. "Instead, when we met him at a show and he saw how much joy his hilarious outtakes brought people, he actually hugged us at the end of the night! And keep in mind, this is a man who called a fly a 'goddamn jackass.' We've all had frustrating days at work but none of us has expressed it as colorfully or eloquently as Jack Rebney. He will be missed."