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The Doc Days of Summer: “Winnebago Man”

The Doc Days of Summer: “Winnebago Man” (photo)

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One could say the viral campaign for the blisteringly funny new doc “Winnebago Man” preceded even the Internet when the profane outtakes of RV salesman Jack Rebney leaked out from the production of an industrial video during the ’80s (you can see it here, millions of others have) and made their way out into the world on fuzzy VHS copies and eventually YouTube.

Soon, Rebney would be anointed the “world’s angriest man” by the legions that discovered the video, including celebrity fans like Conan O’Brien and director Mike Mitchell (who would have Ben Affleck recite Rebney’s most famous line, “would you do me a kindness” in “Surviving Christmas”).

However, it would be one of Rebney’s less famous admirers who would set out to discover that if the former Winnebago salesman is angry about anything these days, it’s Dick Cheney, and while he remains quite the character, he’s an emotionally fragile man of letters that is far more than the five minutes’ worth of f-bombs and frustration the world at large knows him for.

07172010_WinnebagoMan2.jpgBen Steinbauer suspected as much might be true from the couch of the Austin apartment he shared with fellow documentarian Bradley Beesley. He wondered whether Rebney had even seen the tape, as he and his roomie would eagerly pop in their copy for anybody who stopped by and hadn’t seen it before.

When Steinbauer, who moonlights as a lecturer at the University of Texas, decided in 2005 to seek Rebney out, he’d get “a lot of sort of dazed looks and pats on the head” from friends who were used to quoting the “Winnebago Man,” but hadn’t thought much more about him and yet it turned into an experience that Steinbauer now says, “reconfigured my understanding of the documentarian/documentary subject relationship.”

Since part of the film’s great fun is in discovering exactly why that is, I won’t detail it here, but Steinbauer does find Rebney in the woods of Northern California and one of the great cinematic pairings of recent memory is born between the private 80-year-old and the 30-ish filmmaker who tries his damnedest to get him to open up.

“The fact that Jack was not only uncomfortable with [appearing on camera] but actively withholding from me as somebody that was making a documentary about him was something that I had just never considered,” said Steinbauer. “I kind of took for granted that somebody — with reality TV and [social media] — wouldn’t just want to tell the personal details of their life.”

07172010_WinnebagoMan3.jpgThere was a Plan B if Rebney didn’t respond to Steinbauer’s entreaties, a tenuous process which is depicted in all its nerveracking glory in the film, that involved seeking out other Internet-era celebrities in what would’ve been in Steinbauer’s words, “a ‘Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control’ treatment where I was going to find three or four of these stories and crosscut them together to paint this overall portrait of this new type of technological infamy.”

Ultimately, it wasn’t necessary to go that route, though Steinbauer still interviewed noted fabulist Aleksey Vayner (who made the final cut) and the unlucky Lee Paige, the DEA agent who literally shot himself in the foot during a school presentation on weapons safety (and did not). But the filmmaker realized there was something different about Rebney.

“If they weren’t like comfortable with the technology, they were at least aware of it,” Steinbauer said of the other YouTube stars he talked to. “It wasn’t as big a jump as it was for Jack as an 80-year-old man who had been in media in the ’50s and ’60s when they still shot on 16mm film. They didn’t even have video, so the idea of outtakes to him were kind of outrageous, like that didn’t really exist, let alone the idea that people in Japan would be watching these 20 years later, [which] was just like some sort of Orwellian dystopia for him.”



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.