Twenty summers ago, in the deep sweat of nowhere Iowa, a hired crew set out to film the lamest sort of low-budget sales video imaginable. But what could have been a mundane if not suicidal assignment spun into accidental comedy, as the star of the infomercial, ex-network news producer turned industrial thespian Jack Rebney, allowed his physical and occupational discomfort to get the best of him. In a blooper reel that first circulated on hand-dubbed VHS tapes before blowing up on YouTube, Rebney barks such vulgar trademark outbursts as “What does the goddamn line say, Tony?”, “I don’t even know what the fuck I’m saying,” and, perhaps most famously, “My mind is just a piece of shit this morning.” Chances are you know the clip as “Winnebago Man.”
In the most voyeuristic society ever to spy this earth, Rebney, cooking on the inside of a hot tin Itasca Sunflyer, is one of our favorite folks to ogle. The outtakes from his Winnebago debacle have been viewed by tens of millions, many of whom (myself included) return to the peephole sporadically, or even regularly, depending on depression levels. Some people watch Seinfeld reruns to cheer up; some abuse Dust-Off and other household gases. But for a growing legion of YouTube boobs and mouse potatoes, Winnebago Man is all the medication we need to laugh away overdue bills and genital infections. Indeed, Rebney is the meme of memes — the Holy Grail of accidental celebrities, as one interviewee puts it.