Do You Know the Winnebago Man?
Sometimes a simple commercial can launch someone’s fame. Today we’ll look at a man who was made famous not by the shots that made it into the final cut but the outtakes. If you’ve never heard of the Winnebago Man, you’re in for a wild ride.
The Winnebago Man, Jack Rebney, starred in a 1988 Winnebago commercial promoting the company’s newest Itasca RV. The commercial would eventually turn Rebney into “The Winnebago Man.” Many years after the original filming, he earned the honor of being the RV industry’s first viral meme.
A film telling the story of the Winnebago Man first premiered at South by Southwest in 2009. Netflix carried the DVD, and the legend of Winnebago Man began to spread. Now you can find the documentary on YouTube, Amazon, Apple TV, and Google Play. It’s a great way to spend an hour and 25 minutes on your next rainy day!
How the Winnebago Man Came to Be Known
The Winnebago Man was made famous by his crass and hilarious outtakes. Jack Rebney was a former news anchor hired to make two 10-minute promotional videos for Winnebago. Filming took place at their headquarters in Iowa. Jack’s bloopers are what keep this promotional video circulating today.
Jack Rebney frequently had meltdowns, criticized himself and others on set, and even dropped a significant amount of F-bombs and other obscenities during filming. Swarms of flies set Jack off into one of his infamous tirades. He struggled to remember his lines, which triggered an outburst or two. The visible frustration is why he’ll forever hold the title of Winnebago Man.
How the Winnebago Man Outtakes Originally Circulated
After two weeks of filming, the company successfully captured the footage they needed for a successful commercial, but the crew’s work wasn’t over. After experiencing the wonder that was Jack, they couldn’t help but share what they’d seen. The film crew pieced together a compilation of outtakes and circulated it among friends via VHS tape.
The tapes were copied many times and passed along for others to view. Before the internet, sharing may have been more time-consuming, but it didn’t take long for word to spread about the crazy Winnebago Man.
The Winnebago Man Documentary
It wasn’t until the 2000’s that Jack Rebney realized the outtakes had circulated this whole time. Ben Steinbauer, a filmmaker, decided to track down Rebney to determine what he thought about the outtakes. Jack didn’t even know he was “The Winnebago Man,” so it was a bit of a shock to him at first. The documentary, simply titled “Winnebago Man,” looks at the clips’ origins and how the video affects Jack even after all this time.
In the documentary, Steinbauer goes from being curious about Jack to annoyed with his off-topic rants to becoming friends. In a 2010 interview, they appeared together in a podcast sharing that they now speak daily.
The film first premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, on March 14, 2009. It then hit U.S. theaters July 9, 2010, and appeared on DVD the following November.
Is the Winnebago Man Still Alive?
As of the writing of this article, Rebney is still alive and well. He’s spending his golden years in a cabin in a forest in northern California. He still doesn’t know why his outtakes are so unique or why so many people enjoy watching them.
The Internet Keeps the Winnebago Man Outtakes Alive
With the advent of YouTube and other video-sharing websites, the Winnebago Man will live on forever. Sharing video content is as easy as the click of a button. No longer do friends need to huddle around a bulky TV with a VHS tape to chuckle at the Winnebago Man’s hilarious outbursts.
We can all relate to the frustrations the Winnebago Man displayed in those outtakes. RVing is full of frustrating moments, and if you RV for long, you could end up with an entertaining video of your own. What is your take on the man who became known as the Winnebago Man? Do you find his outbursts offensive and uncalled for, or do you see the humor in it?
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