Who Is Jim Varney?
As with most winters, I found myself hunkered down this past weekend. On Saturday, I was all cozy, curled up on the couch and wasn’t really able to find anything I wanted to watch on Netflix, so then I checked Amazon Prime, and then Hulu, but still came up empty-handed. Defeated, I detached myself from the couch and shuffled over to the movie case (because calling it a bookcase with no books on it sounds kinda funny). I stood there, draped in my microfiber blanket, and contemplated watching The Matrix for the hundredth time when my eyes came across Everything Earnest on DVD. It was then that I decided that I was long overdue for a good healthy dose of Jim Varney.
If you’re over the age of 25, chances are you know him as Ernest P. Worrell from the Ernest film series. And if you’re under 25, you probably have no clue who this dude is, but we assure you, you’ve heard his voice plenty of times. That’s because Jim Varney played “Slink” in both Toy Story and Toy Story 2.
My mind instantly exploded with happy childhood memories filled with gut busting laughter fueled by sleep deprivation and far too much soda. I snagged the three-movie collection off of Amazon a while back, but must’ve completely forgotten about it. I popped the disc into my Xbox and jumped back on the couch and then I watched it all: Ernest Goes To Camp, Ernest Goes To Jail, and Ernest Scared Stupid. Oh, and that bonus episode from his television show, “Hey Vern, It’s Ernest”? Yeah, I watched that too. In total, it was just over 4 hours of campy nostalgic gold. Was it worth it? Well, it’s not Academy Award level film making here, but the content is still great.
The main character, Ernest, was portrayed by James (aka Jim) Albert Varney Jr. and he was born in Lexington, Kentucky, on the 15th of June, 1949, and passed away from lung cancer on February 10th, 2000.
As a lifetime chain smoker, Varney even did a PSA as his loveable character to warn viewers of the dangers of smoking. You’ll also be hard pressed to find a photo of him smoking because he didn’t want to send the wrong message to all the kids that watched his movies.
Earnest was originally a franchised advertising gimmick for a host of companies all over the United States starting in 1980 at a theme park with the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. He went on to advertise for the dairy industry, natural gas companies, car dealerships, TV stations, and grocery stores.
There have been 9 Earnest films, handfuls of appearances and television shows, and it’s sad that a large portion of the world has yet to or will ever get to experience the sheer comedic brilliance that Varney was able to display with his character. Jim was and will always be an icon with more than 50 film and television credits to his name.