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Varney, Jim Biography




biography of Varney, Jim

James Albert Varney Jr.
15 June 1949, Lexington, Kentucky, USA
10 February 2000, Whitehouse, Tennessee, USA (lung cancer)
6' 1"
Jim Varney became interested in theater as a teenager, winning state titles in drama competitions while a student at Lafayette High School in Lexington, Kentucky. At age 15 he played Ebeneezer Scrooge in a local children's theater production of "A Christmas Carol", and by 17 was performing professionally in nightclubs and coffee houses. He chose Nashville rather than New York or Los Angeles as a place to pursue his acting career and, with advertising executive 'John R. Cherry III' (qv), turned "Ernest P. Worrell" into a cash cow, making commercials for clients ranging from soft drinks to food stores and, eventually, Disney. Even though Ernest's catchphrase "KnowhutImean?" became a national craze almost immediately, Jim worked in TV and film for more than a decade before his famous alter-ego hit the big screen in _Ernest Goes to Camp (1987)_ (qv).
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-   'Jane Varney' (1988 - 1991) (divorced)

-   'Jacqueline Drew' (15 June 1977 - 1983) (divorced)


-   Raspy voice.

-   Known for his character Ernest P. Worrell.


-   Included in a 1986 home video collection of Ernest commercials is a public service spot with Ernest trying to convince "Vern" to quit smoking, thus avoiding "The Big 'C'-Cancer. Chemotherapy City."

-   Was a heavy smoker and died of lung cancer.

-   Jim Varney died at about 4:45 am February 10, 2000 at his White House, Tennessee home.

-   Lived in Lexington, Kentucky while growing up, and graduated from Lafayette Senior High School with the class of 1968. He listed a former teacher, Thelma Beeler, as being one of the main contributing factors in his becoming an actor.

-   His final movie, "Ernest the Pirate" (2000) had nearly completed shooting at the time of his death. For that reason, it got canceled, and was never released on VHS, DVD, or as part of an "Ernest" box set on anything.

-   Known to fans as Ernest P. Worrell, his most famous character, who propelled him to the public eye. Ernest appeared in commercials "alongside" his off-camera friend Vern. Ernest would address the camera as if it were Vern.

-   Despite his persona as Ernest P. Worrell, he reportedly had a near genius I.Q. level. He was said to be occasionally exasperated with fans who met him and assumed he was exactly like the Worrell character he portrayed.

-   When he discovered he had lung cancer, he reportedly threw away his cigarettes and quit smoking cold turkey. Unfortunately, it was too late.

-   He used to do commercials for the Dodge dealership in Henderson, Kentucky, sitting in the Dodge Viper "high in the sky."

-   As his Ernest P. Worrell persona, he did advertisements for the Southern California auto mall Cerritos Auto Square. After his death, commercials now feature a CGI Ernest.

-   As Ernest, Jim Varney used to do Purity Dairy commercials which ran in Nashville, TN.

-   Among one of the companies he portrayed his beloved character, Earnest, was for the Kroger grocery store chain. These aired mainly in the marketing area of Tennessee, parts of Mississippi and Ohio where Kroger grocery store chains are predominate.

-   Between 1987 and 1990, Disney released four Ernest movies that generated a total of $100 million. Five more Ernest films were released independently, mainly for the video and television markets.

-   The character of Ernest was actually introduced in a commercial for Bowling Green, Kentucky's Beech Bend Raceway Park.

-   Along with 'Robin Williams (I)' (qv), Varney was one of Los Angeles's Comedy Store's original alumni.

-   Standup comedy launched his TV career. His first national appearance came at age 25, when he embarked on the talk show circuit that included "The Merv Griffin Show" and "The Tonight Show."

-   Studied Shakespeare at the Barter Theatre in Virginia and performed in a folk show during Opryland's first year of operation

-   When given the chance to have a lifelong dream fulfilled by such groups as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, several hundred terminally ill children have asked to meet Ernest. He never let them down.

-   Was very good friends with 'Robin Williams (I)' (qv).

-   Remained good friends with his second wife Jane after their divorce and she became his spokesperson later in life.

-   Varney was very good friends with actor Blake Clark and Clark took over the role of Slinky Dog in Toy Story 3 after Varney's death. In an interview for Toy Story 3 Clark described Varney as a very good and kind man and one of his bestest friends.

-   Youngest child and only son of James Albert Varney Sr (1910-1985) and Louise Varney (1913-1994). He has three older sisters.


-   TV commercial for Toyota Trucks (1985-1986)

-   TV commercial for Cerritos Auto Square automobile sales (1997)

-   TV commercials for Trauth Dairy products

-   TV commercial for Braum's Ice Cream & Dairy Stores

-   Created the character Ernest P. Worrell in hundreds of regional and national TV commercials.

-   TV commercial: Northwest Ford Dealers (mid -late 80s)

-   Print ad: Great Canadian Casinos (1990)

-   TV commercials: Convenient Food Mart, early 1980s

-   TV commercial, (with Verne's shadow looming towards him) for Lay's potato chips (1986)

-   Magazine pages: photos of fake production "Ernest goes to France" for Entertainment Weekly, (1992)

-   (1989): Special appearance for Six Flags as "Ernest" in Atlanta, Georgia.


-   Life's just a bus stop to somewhere infinitely better.


-   _"E! True Hollywood Story" (1996) {Ernest Goes to Hollywood: Jim Varney}_ (qv)


-   "Entertainment Weekly" (USA), 3 March 2000, Vol. 1, Iss. 527, pg. 26, by: Brian Raftery, "Legacy: Ernest Goodbye"

-   "The Nashville Scene" (USA), 11 November 1999, pg. 1, by: Beverly Keel, "The Importance of Being Ernest"

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Acting in movies

  1. The Making of 'Atlantis: The Lost Empire' (2002) (V)
  2. Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
  3. Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) (VG)
  4. Daddy and Them (2001)
  5. "E! True Hollywood Story" (1996) {Ernest Goes to Hollywood: Jim Varney}
  6. The 72nd Annual Academy Awards (2000) (TV)
  7. The Story Behind 'Toy Story' (2000) (V)
  8. Existo (1999)
  9. Toy Story 2 (1999)
  10. Toy Story 2 (1999) (VG)
  11. Treehouse Hostage (1999)
  12. 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain (1998)
  13. Ernest in the Army (1998)
  14. "The Simpsons" (1989) {Bart Carny (#9.12)}
  15. 100 Proof (1997)
  16. Annabelle's Wish (1997) (V)
  17. Blood, Friends and Money (1997)
  18. Ernest Goes to Africa (1997)
  19. Oops! The World's Funniest Outtakes 5 (1997) (TV)
  20. "Duckman: Private Dick/Family Man" (1994) {You've Come a Wrong Way, Baby (#4.24)}
  21. "Ed's Night Party" (1995) {(1997-10-10)}
  22. Snowboard Academy (1996)
  23. Toy Story Activity Center (1996) (VG)
  24. "Roseanne" (1988) {Home Is Where the Afghan Is (#9.10)}
  25. "Roseanne" (1988) {Someday My Prince Will Come (#9.5)}
  26. Slam Dunk Ernest (1995) (V)
  27. The Expert (1995)
  28. Toy Story (1995)
  29. "Showbiz Today" (1984) {(1995-12-04)}
  30. Ernest Goes to School (1994)
  31. The Wonderful World of Disney: 40 Years of Television Magic (1994) (TV)
  32. XXX's & OOO's (1994) (TV)
  33. Your World as I See It (1994)
  34. Ernest Rides Again (1993)
  35. The Beverly Hillbillies (1993)
  36. Wilder Napalm (1993)
  37. "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" (1992) {(#2.177)}
  38. Ernest's Greatest Hits Volume 2 (1992) (V)
  39. Comic Relief IV (1991) (TV)
  40. Ernest Scared Stupid (1991)
  41. Disneyland's 35th Anniversary Special (1990) (TV)
  42. Ernest Goes to Jail (1990)
  43. "Disneyland" (1954) {Disneyland's 35th Anniversary Celebration (#34.15)}
  44. "The Home Show" (1988) {(1990-05-04)}
  45. Comic Relief III (1989) (TV)
  46. Ernest Goes to Splash Mountain (1989) (TV)
  47. Fast Food (1989)
  48. "Live with Regis and Kathie Lee" (1988) {(1989-05-01)}
  49. Ernest Saves Christmas (1988)
  50. Happy New Year, America (1988) (TV)
  51. "Hey, Vern, It's Ernest!" (1988) {Hey Vern, It's Clothing (#1.2)}
  52. "Hey, Vern, It's Ernest!" (1988) {Hey Vern, It's Food (#1.9)}
  53. "Hey, Vern, It's Ernest!" (1988) {Hey Vern, It's Hobbies (#1.8)}
  54. "Hey, Vern, It's Ernest!" (1988) {Hey Vern, It's Holidays (#1.10)}
  55. "Hey, Vern, It's Ernest!" (1988) {Hey Vern, It's Lost and Found (#1.12)}
  56. "Hey, Vern, It's Ernest!" (1988) {Hey Vern, It's Magic (#1.5)}
  57. "Hey, Vern, It's Ernest!" (1988) {Hey Vern, It's Movies (#1.4)}
  58. "Hey, Vern, It's Ernest!" (1988) {Hey Vern, It's Outer Space (#1.1)}
  59. "Hey, Vern, It's Ernest!" (1988) {Hey Vern, It's Pets (#1.7)}
  60. "Hey, Vern, It's Ernest!" (1988) {Hey Vern, It's Scary Things (#1.3)}
  61. "Hey, Vern, It's Ernest!" (1988) {Hey Vern, It's School (#1.11)}
  62. "Hey, Vern, It's Ernest!" (1988) {Hey Vern, It's Sports (#1.6)}
  63. "Hey, Vern, It's Ernest!" (1988) {Hey Vern, It's Talent (#1.13)}
  64. Ernest Goes to Camp (1987)
  65. Hey Vern, Win $10,000 (1987) (V)
  66. Walt Disney World Celebrity Circus (1987) (TV)
  67. "The New Hollywood Squares" (1986) {(1987-05-25)}
  68. Dr. Otto and the Riddle of the Gloom Beam (1986)
  69. The Ernest Film Festival (1986) (V)
  70. "Hee Haw" (1969) {(#17.17)}
  71. "Hee Haw" (1969) {(#17.23)}
  72. "The Rousters" (1983) {Cold Streak (#1.11)}
  73. "The Rousters" (1983) {Never Trust a Crystal Ball (#1.7)}
  74. "The Rousters" (1983) {Slade vs. Slade (#1.9)}
  75. "The Rousters" (1983) {Snake Eyes (#1.10)}
  76. "The Rousters" (1983) {This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Twelve of Us (#1.12)}
  77. "The Rousters" (1983) {Two and a Helf Day of the Condor (#1.8)}
  78. "The Rousters" (1983) {Wyatt Earp to the Rescue (#1.13)}
  79. The Rousters (1983) (TV)
  80. "The Rousters" (1983) {A Picture's Worth a Thousand Dollars (#1.4)}
  81. "The Rousters" (1983) {Everybody Loves a Clown (#1.6)}
  82. "The Rousters" (1983) {Eye Witness Blues (#1.5)}
  83. "The Rousters" (1983) {Finders Keepers (#1.3)}
  84. "The Rousters" (1983) {The Carnival That Ate Sladetown (#1.2)}
  85. "The Rousters" (1983) {The Rousters (#1.1)}
  86. Spittin' Image (1982)
  87. "Pink Lady" (1980) {(#1.6)}
  88. Third Annual Final Warning!! (1979) (TV)
  89. "Operation Petticoat" (1977) {Big Deal on Kaloa Street (#2.9)}
  90. "Operation Petticoat" (1977) {Don't Drink the Shimbaka! (#2.5)}
  91. "Operation Petticoat" (1977) {Hail to the Chief (#2.8)}
  92. "Operation Petticoat" (1977) {Matters of Honor (#2.10)}
  93. "Operation Petticoat" (1977) {Sub-Down (#2.7)}
  94. "Operation Petticoat" (1977) {The Talent Show (#2.6)}
  95. "Alice" (1976) {Better Never Than Late (#3.7)}
  96. "America 2-Night" (1978) {Daredevil Virgil Simms (#1.47)}
  97. "America 2-Night" (1978) {Falafel-on-a-Stick (#1.51)}
  98. "America 2-Night" (1978) {The UBS Story (#1.60)}
  99. "Operation Petticoat" (1977) {Bless You, My Sub (#1.13)}
  100. "Operation Petticoat" (1977) {Claire Voyant (#1.22)}
  101. "Operation Petticoat" (1977) {Cram Course (#2.3)}
  102. "Operation Petticoat" (1977) {Down to the Sea in Slips (#1.15)}
  103. "Operation Petticoat" (1977) {Gallardo Joins Up (#1.19)}
  104. "Operation Petticoat" (1977) {In Gossett We Trust (#1.20)}
  105. "Operation Petticoat" (1977) {Matt on a Hot Pink Sub (#1.21)}
  106. "Operation Petticoat" (1977) {Operation Spleen (#2.1)}
  107. "Operation Petticoat" (1977) {The Best of Enemies (#1.16)}
  108. "Operation Petticoat" (1977) {The Hunkle-Crandall Affair (#2.2)}
  109. "Operation Petticoat" (1977) {The Instant Ensign (#1.14)}
  110. "Operation Petticoat" (1977) {Tostin Times Two (#1.18)}
  111. "Operation Petticoat" (1977) {You Owe Me One (#2.4)}
  112. Riding High (1977) (TV)
  113. "Fernwood 2 Night" (1977) {(#1.46)}
  114. "Fernwood 2 Night" (1977) {Battery Powered Car (#1.59)}
  115. "Fernwood 2 Night" (1977) {Ethnic Myths (#1.10)}
  116. "Fernwood 2 Night" (1977) {Getting the Most from Your Warranty (#1.38)}
  117. "Operation Petticoat" (1977) {A Party for the Captain (#1.6)}
  118. "Operation Petticoat" (1977) {And Baby Makes 33 (#1.7)}
  119. "Operation Petticoat" (1977) {And Out of the Sea Came a Marine (#1.5)}
  120. "Operation Petticoat" (1977) {Dear Molumphrey (#1.10)}
  121. "Operation Petticoat" (1977) {Dooley Is a Daddy (#1.3)}
  122. "Operation Petticoat" (1977) {Grey Is Beautiful (#1.9)}
  123. "Operation Petticoat" (1977) {I'm Dreaming of a Pink Christmas (#1.12)}
  124. "Operation Petticoat" (1977) {On a Clear Day You Can See a Bulkhead (#1.11)}
  125. "Operation Petticoat" (1977) {Operation Petticoat (#1.0)}
  126. "Operation Petticoat" (1977) {Operation, Operation (#1.4)}
  127. "Operation Petticoat" (1977) {We've No Business in Show Business (#1.8)}
  128. "Operation Petticoat" (1977) {Yeoman Hunkle, Yeoman Hunkle Part 1 (#1.1)}
  129. "Operation Petticoat" (1977) {Yeoman Hunkle, Yeoman Hunkle Part 2 (#1.2)}
  130. "Johnny Cash and Friends" (1976)
  131. "Dinah!" (1974) {(#2.206)}
  132. "Pop! Goes the Country" (1974)

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