ON AN RV LOT in Forest City, Iowa, in 1989, Jack Rebney had a really bad day. In quite possibly the worst afternoon of his life, Rebney flubbed lines and intensely labored in front of a camera filming a Winnebago trade video. Red-faced, and with his volatile temper flaring, Rebney unleashed a stunning tirade of profanities as the cameras rolled, slowly losing his sanity with each unsuccessful take. Years passed before this unintentionally hilarious footage found its way from VHS bootleg to YouTube sensation, where seemingly overnight his onscreen meltdown spread via countless "best video ever" emails to become the epitome of an internet meme.
In Winnebago Man, Ben Steinbauer's obsession with Rebney's foulmouthed outtakes leads the filmmaker to travel the country looking to find out if Rebney is dead or alive (he's alive!), really that angry (he's even angrier!), and to uncover the true story behind these fascinating viral videos. As it turns out, the answers to these questions are more complicated than Steinbauer ever imagined.
Initially intended to be a comedy that would poke fun at the sailor-mouthed Rebney and his unlikely viral fame, Winnebago Man takes a dramatic turn as the complex title character and filmmaker strike an unusual friendship anchored in a tentative trust and countless four-letter rants. A self-proclaimed hermit, Rebney is a man crippled by anger—whether it's directed at Steinbauer, Dick Cheney, or his fans, Rebney's rage spares no one—whose decades of unhinged fury have rendered him completely isolated from the world. But he's also a very charismatic character whose colorful life transcends his role as that delightfully furious prick from the internet. In an attempt to humanize without exploiting—and the film can't help but do a little of both—Winnebago Man peers intensely at Rebney as he attempts to be understood and make a final attempt at redemption.