“Will you do me a kindness?”
“Listen when you’re in f**king Iowa baby it’s accoutrama.”
Jack Rebney (Responding to a question at a film festival.)
Forest City, Iowa is a small town about an hour and a half north from Cedar Falls where I live, but a video shot there that has an international following. Ah, the power of screenwriting from Iowa.
Jack Rebney may not be as well known as some of the others I’ve written about with an Iowa connection; John Wayne, Tennessee Williams, Johnny Carson, Ashton Kutcher, Ron Livingston, and Diablo Cody. But he joins those others thanks to a viral video made up of profanity-laced outtakes from an industrial video made in Iowa more than 20 years ago. Some people know Rebney as “The Angriest Man in the World” or “The Angriest Person on Earth” and others simply know him as “Winnebago Man.”
Back in 1988, Rebney was the on camera talent for a promotional video showcasing a Winnebago RV. Outtakes that showed Rebney getting upset during the shoot leaked into the world. Some of his lines found their way into movies, commercials and video games. (In the movie Surviving Christmas, Ben Affleck repeats the words, “Will you do me a kindness?”) Then in 2005 the video went viral with the advent of You Tube and today it has been viewed more than 20 million times.
Filmmaker Ben Steinbauer decided to find the man behind the video and made the award-winning documentary Winnebago Man. The result is what The New Yorker called, “An intriguing meditation on character, celebrity and the filmmaking process itself.” It played in theaters this summer and was released on DVD last week.
One of the most famous lines from the outtake video is Rebney saying, “The accoutrama that you will need… ‘Accoutrama? What is that sh*t?” Of Steinbauer’s own personal 10 favorite lines from the Winnebago Man this is his #1; “I don’t want any more bullsh*t anytime during the day from anyone…And that includes me.”
But there is more bullsh*t from Rebney and Winnebago Man falls short of giving any true insights into Rebney. Not that Steinbauer didn’t try. Instead the film ends in a sense like taking the Elephant Man to the circus. If Steinbauer has the time, money, and interest perhaps other people will pop up and fill in the blanks on what made Rebney so angry, or maybe Rebney will pull the mask down before he dies and give Steinbauer “the rest of the story.”
It doesn’t need the climatic ending of Grizzly Man, but another layer is needed to complete the story. Perhaps that will come now that Rebney has a larger platform and following to expose the world to his thoughts. I’ve read his book, called Jousting the Myth, which is mentioned in the movie will be out soon.
But for now the lesson here is never underestimate the power of written words performed on hot summer days in a small town in Iowa. Don’t be surprised if they find their way to theaters from San Francisco to New York.
Update: The official verified Twitter account for the film WinnebagoMan and Jack Rebney is @WinnebagoMan. Just read this post: “Jack Rebney says: “The WINNEBAGO MAN documentary has become something of joy to me.”
P.S. If you ever find yourself driving up I-35 in Iowa between Des Moines and Minneapolis, stop in Forest City, Iowa and take a tour of the Winnebago factory. If you have time you can also tour the Spam Museum not far away in Austin, Minnesota.