Way back in 2006, some funny/disturbing, decades-old outtakes of an ill-tempered man named Jack Rebney shilling for recreational vehicles took on a life of their own as a widely-circulated viral video popularly known as “Winnebago Man.” While Rebney’s impassioned tirades eventually inspired a full-length follow-up documentary in 2009, the original meltdown montage is obviously still providing inspiration to viewers across the county, as evidenced by “Wilco Kitty Man,” a clever and affectionate new promotional video from the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter in Georgetown, TX. In its efforts to get people to adopt some adorable kittens, the shelter has employed its own hotheaded, Rebney-type spokesman to make an appeal to the public, although this one is considerably more sedate and less profane than the original. The shelter is giving away free cats and kittens on September 26 and 27 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and this is their way of bringing attention to the event. Perhaps they hadn’t seen any of Saturday Night Live’s more-recent cat adoption sketches.
The video is the brainchild of Daniel Mergele and his wife, Misty Valenta, who acts as the Community Outreach Coordinator of the Williamson County Shelter. The “Wilco Kitty Man” himself, however, is portrayed by the couple’s friend, Eric Forcke. Though Forcke was a newcomer to acting, Mergele says that he and his wife thought, “he had the perfect demeanor” for the role. As for basing the announcement on the classic viral video, Mergele explains that they were originally considering “a used car salesman video” but abandoned that idea once they’d remembered Jack Rebney’s famous outburst. “[We] thought it would be a funny angle to have a dry, grumpy character making an animal shelter video that he clearly didn’t want to,” he explains. Previous to this, Mergele and Valenta produced a Beatles-themed clip called “All Together Meow.”
“Wilco Kitty Man,” which has no relation whatsoever to the band (even if Wilco did feature a cat on its most recent album cover), shows would-be benefactor Forcke struggling at every step of the way to get his animal-adoption message across. For the life of him, he cannot recite the full name of the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter. He has numerous suggestions for his feline costars as well, including, “Let’s look at the camera, please!” and, “Wake up, you’re on camera!” Perhaps the comedic highlight is a scene in which the faux-Rebney assembles a cardboard cat carrier only to declare, “The cat’s just gonna fall out this bottom.” In place of the truly foul language from the original “Winnebago Man,” meanwhile, “Wilco Kitty Man” substitutes some well-timed bleeps and at least one amusing, G-rated epithet: “Kitten whiskers!” In all, this is a cute little video from an institution which, in its own words, “provides a safe environment for the lost, abandoned, and homeless animals of these jurisdictions and works diligently to place them in good homes.”