Ernest P. Worrell
|Ernest P. Worrell|
|Ernest P. Worrell character|
Jim Varney as Ernest P. Worrell
|Created by||Carden and Cherry advertising agency|
|Portrayed by||Jim Varney|
Ernest P. Worrell is a fictional character portrayed by American actor Jim Varney in a series of television commercials, and later in a television series (Hey Vern, It's Ernest!) as well as a series of feature films. Ernest was created by the Nashville advertising agency Carden and Cherry and was used in various local television ad campaigns. The only national products he promoted were The Coca-Cola Company's sodas, Chex, and Taco John's. The first Ernest commercial, filmed in 1980, advertised an appearance by the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders at Beech Bend Park, an amusement park near Bowling Green, Kentucky. The format of the commercials seldom varied. The rubber-faced Ernest, almost always dressed in a denim vest and baseball cap, appeared at the door of an unseen and unheard but seemingly unwilling neighbor named Vern. The spots were structured in a way to allow the viewer to be "Vern", as Varney looked directly in the camera whenever Vern was addressed. Ernest's seemingly pointless conversations with Vern – which were actually a monologue due to Vern never responding – inevitably rambled around to a favorable description of the sponsor's product, followed by his signature close, "KnowhutImean?" While Vern is never shown to ever say anything, it is implied that he finds Ernest to be an unwelcome pest due to him trying to slam his door in Ernest's face on a few occasions. Vern also shakes his head "No" whenever Ernest invites him to do something. Ernest, despite having good intentions, is utterly oblivious to Vern's apparent distress regarding him and always regards Vern as his closest buddy and confidant.
The Ernest ads were shot with a handheld film camera at the Nashville-area home of producer John Cherry and Jerry Carden. As their number of clients increased, Varney sometimes did upwards of 25 different versions of a spot in a single day. Producer Coke Sams stated that Varney had a photographic memory and would read through the script one time then insert the various products names on different takes. The commercials and the character had definite impact; children especially seemed to imitate Ernest and "KnoWhutimean?" became a catchphrase. A television series, Hey Vern, It's Ernest!, and a series of theatrically released motion pictures followed. Although the television series won Varney a Daytime Emmy Award for his performance, the movies were not critically well-received; however, the latter were produced on very low budgets and were quite profitable. In the films, Ernest is apparently somewhat aware of his extreme resistance to harm, as in Ernest Rides Again, he seemed barely fazed by nails bending after being fired at his skull, remarking 'Good thing they hit the hard end', he also commented that he would be dead "If I wasn't this close to being an actual cartoon." Varney in his Ernest role appeared in dozens of Cerritos Auto Square commercials for many years on Los Angeles area television stations, along with commercials for Audubon Chrysler Center in Henderson, Kentucky, John L. Sullivan auto dealerships in the Sacramento, California area, the Pontiac, Michigan-based electronics store ABC Warehouse, and the Oklahoma City-based Braum's Ice Cream and Dairy Store. In the Southeast, the Ernest character was the spokesman for Purity milk. In New Mexico, he appeared in commercials for Blake's Lotaburger. In Houston, he did commercials promoting Channel 2 News KPRC-TV. In 2005, five years after Varney's death, the Ernest P. Worrell character returned in new commercials as a CGI cartoon, created by an animation company called face2face and produced by Ernest originators Carden & Cherry. Ernest was voiced by John C. Hudgens, an advertising and broadcast producer from Little Rock, Arkansas, who also played an Ernest type character in some regional live action commercials.
Ernest has a large family made up of people with similar traits to him, all of whom were portrayed by Jim Varney. Varney, as Worrell, mentioned that his family was from Kentucky when he hosted Happy New Year, America on CBS December 31, 1988. Most of Worrell's family members had their appearance in either Hey Vern, It's My Family Album or Your World as I See It.
The Worrell Family
- Edna Worrell: Ernest's second wife according to the television commercials and Hey Vern, It's My Family Album. According to Ernest, Edna makes a great deep dish pie. Her middle initial is also said to be P. in Ernest's newsletter during the 1980s.
- Ace Worrell: A fighter pilot who served in the army. His relation to Ernest is unknown though he is believed to be a great uncle.
- Jennifer Sharkey Worrell: Ernest's deceased first wife.
- Astor Clement: Ernest's uncle, a wealthy college professor who likes to brag about his rich status and unusual intelligence and was the main narrator of Your World As I See It. Astor was also one of Ernest's disguises in Ernest Saves Christmas.
- Bunny Worrell: The slow-witted and confused sister of Ernest who runs her own quirky hair salon called "Bunny's Beauty World."
- Lloyd Worrell: Ernest's bitter great uncle. He was Ernest's disguise as "The Snake Guy" in Ernest Saves Christmas.
- Auntie Nelda: Ernest's dramatic great aunt who is not on good terms with her son Izzy and often acts like the death of her husband Morris was a blessing. She tries to get men to notice her by acting innocent all the time. She was also one of Ernest's "multiple personalities" in Ernest Scared Stupid and one of his disguises in Ernest Saves Christmas, Ernest Goes to Jail, Ernest Rides Again, and Ernest Goes to Africa.
- Coy Worrell: Ernest's hillbilly brother who runs a store that sells car parts. He often chases women and is quite proud of the tattoo collection on his body. Coy has been married at least twice: first to Rayette Worrell and then to Anita Worrell.
- Billy Boogie Worrell: Ernest's cousin who operates a ride at an amusement park called The Scrambler. He is talented in music and dancing, but still manages to scare people with his crass and unstable personality.
- Davy Worrell: Ernest's light-headed great, great uncle who was a war veteran in the late 19th century. He helped his army troop win a battle against a Native American tribe led by Chief Running Vern, even though his troop wasn't even present at the time. He is a spoof of frontiersman Davy Crockett.
- Retch Worrell: Ernest's great, great-grandfather who was popular with women and had a girlfriend named Verna. He was a heavy gambler and incredibly stupid.
- Pa Worrell: Ernest's elderly father, a World War II veteran who has a politically incorrect view of the world. His first name is never revealed. He's an avid fisherman and is friends with an African savage named Qui Qua.
- Ma Worrell: Ernest's elderly mother. She is known to be a good cook and according to Ernest she used to make a great chocolate milk, which is Ernest's favorite drink.
- Reverend Phineas Worrell: A distant ancestor of Ernest in "Ernest Scared Stupid". He helped banish a troll named Trantor, who Ernest accidentally released several generations later.
- Stephani P. Worrell: Ernest's Aunt from the television series. She had thick glasses and cried a lot.
- Ernie P. Worrell: Ernest's son. Only mentioned once by Ernest while answering fan mail in his own newsletter.
Ernest also had several pets during the course of his career. They are listed below in order of appearance.
- Shorty: Ernest's first dog. She appeared in several commercials usually having given birth to a litter of puppies in the back of Vern's new pick up truck while out driving with Ernest. Shorty's exact breed is unknown as she was portrayed by a different breed in each of her appearances. In the Hey Vern, It's Ernest episode "Hey Vern, It's Magic", Shorty was a male and Vern's dog. He was portrayed by a Border Collie on the show.
- Pokey: A Box Turtle that Ernest had adopted from "actual nature" in Ernest Goes to Camp. Pokey and his family were used as "turtle paratroopers" during the battle with the miners toward the end of the movie.
- Ants: Ernest mentioned in Ernest Goes to Camp that he once had an ant farm.
- Rimshot: Ernest's second dog, a male Jack Russell Terrier. Rimshot is Ernest's best known pet. He is characterized as very smart. He was featured in two of the movies, Ernest Goes to Jail and Ernest Scared Stupid, in which he was also shown to be very brave and tough, as he would stand up to the main villains which would usually lead to his near demise.
- Jake: Ernest's Fantail (goldfish) in Ernest Goes to Africa. Sadly, Jake died when Ernest accidentally broke his fish bowl and then dropped him into the kitchen garbage disposal and mistakenly hit the wrong switch.
- Lizard: This is not really a pet but Ernest followed around a little lizard in the forest in the film Ernest Rides Again.
- Hey Vern, It's My Family Album (1983) (direct-to-video)
- Ernest: Greatest Hits Volume One (a.k.a. The Ernest Film Festival) (1986) (direct-to-video)
- Hey Vern, Win $10,000...Or Just Count On Having Fun! (1987) (direct-to-video)
- Ernest Goes to Splash Mountain (1989) (TV special)
- Ernest: Greatest Hits Volume Two (1992) (direct-to-video)
- Your World As I See It (1994) (direct-to-video)I
- Dr. Otto and the Riddle of the Gloom Beam (1986) — unnamed cameo role (Dr. Otto's disguise)
- Ernest Goes to Camp (1987) (Villain: Sherman Krader)
- Ernest Saves Christmas (1988) (Villain: None)
- Ernest Goes to Jail (1990) (Villains: Felix Nash and Rubin Bartlett)
- Ernest Scared Stupid (1991) (Villains: Trantor and other trolls)
- Ernest Rides Again (1993) (Villain: Dr. Glencliff)
- Ernest Goes to School (1994) (direct-to-video) (Villains: Mr. Axwell and later Coach Decker)
- Slam Dunk Ernest (1995) (direct-to-video) (Villain: Mr. Zamiel Moloch)
- Ernest Goes to Africa (1997) (direct-to-video) (Villain: Prince Kazim)
- Ernest in the Army (1998) (direct-to-video) (Villains: President Almar Habib Tufuti and later Colonel Gullet)
In 1990, three Ernest films were reported to be in development. Coke Sams said in 2011 that Ernest Spaced Out may have gotten as far as a film treatment. Sams said about the film, "I believe that was kind of a Lost in Space epic. It seems like there were astronauts and maybe a space capsule."
Sams said a script had been written for Ernest and the Voodoo Curse: "We went back to the Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein kind of thing. It had a really bad guy and happened on an island like Hawaii. [...] So we had Voodoo and a high priest. It was like the idiot version of Raiders of the Lost Ark. We had lines of zombies, Voodoo potions, and Ernest pretending to be a zombie. Ernest and the Voodoo Curse actually was pretty funny. There was a woman in it, who had one blue eye and one brown eye. She was supposed to be the woman of Ernest's dreams. Of course, she would have nothing to do with him."
Ernest and the Water Baby was also announced in 1990, described as "Ernest meets E.T.". A script had also been written for this film. Sam said about the film: "Ernest was an alligator feeder at the Gator Jumparoo, an alligator farm. He found this little creature, the water baby. It was an E.T.-like creature he found way back in the swamp. Of course, it became his buddy. Somehow the bad guys found out about it, and they wanted to use it as a tourist attraction. Scientists found out it had some amazing property in its blood, so they wanted it too. Basically, everybody wanted the water baby. But Ernest had it. They were chasing him; then they got it, and he was chasing them. It was a chance for a lot of gags on the water. I liked Water Baby a lot. It had enough heart to make you care about Ernest and enough stupidity to be really funny. [...] Water Baby was actually a good script. I think it might have proven too expensive, or they just went in another direction."
A musical film had also been planned, but never materialized due to a lack of financing.
By 2003, Varney's IMDb biography page stated that he had died before he could finish filming a tenth Ernest film, titled Ernest the Pirate, which was stated to be scheduled for release in 2000. In November 2011, Sams said the film never existed. Varney had actually been in consideration for a role in the 1999 film, Pirates of the Plain.
|Film||Release date||Box office revenue||Reference|
|Ernest Goes to Camp||May 22, 1987||$23,509,382|||
|Ernest Saves Christmas||November 11, 1988||$28,202,109|||
|Ernest Goes to Jail||April 6, 1990||$25,029,569|||
|Ernest Scared Stupid||October 11, 1991||$14,143,280|||
|Ernest Rides Again||November 12, 1993||$1,450,029|||
|Actor||Dr. Otto and the Riddle of the Gloom Beam||Ernest Goes to Camp||Hey Vern, It's Ernest!||Ernest Saves Christmas||Ernest Goes to Jail||Ernest Scared Stupid||Ernest Rides Again||Ernest Goes to School||Slam Dunk Ernest||Ernest Goes to Africa||Ernest in the Army|
(Ernest P. Worrell)
|John R. Cherry III
Ernest has been parodied in numerous TV shows, including Beavis & Butt-head, Family Guy and The Simpsons. Some of the "fake" Ernest movies from The Simpsons include Ernest Needs A Kidney, Ernest vs. the Pope and Ernest Goes Somewhere Cheap. In the Beavis and Butthead episode "At the Movies," the boys are watching Ernest at the drive-in. Ernest is inside the Statue of Liberty and comes across a door with a sign that reads "DO NOT ENTER." However, Ernest misreads it as "donut entry" and opens the door, falling through the statue's nose. In an episode of Family Guy, Peter Griffin can't decide which (fake) Ernest movie to rent: Ernest Goes to the Beach or Ernest Doesn't Go to the Beach.
Commercials on home video
Most of Ernest's commercials can be seen on VHS tapes from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Touchstone Pictures, and Hollywood Pictures Home Video. Many are also available on DVD from Mill Creek Entertainment and Image Entertainment.
A paperback book, "The Ernest P. Worrell Book of Knawledge" (sic) was published by Camden and Cherry in 1986. A 16" Ernest talking doll was produced by Kenner in 1989.
In October 2012 a film reboot was announced, tentatively titled Son of Ernest. As suggested by the title the film will focus on Ernest's long lost son, presumably Ernie P. Worrell as mentioned above.
- "Jim Varney; Comedic Actor Played Rube Ernest P. Worrell in Commercials, Movies". Los Angeles Times. 2000-02-11. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
- "Ernest P. Gets Rich With Vern". Sun Sentinel. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
- Kalafut, Kathy (1990-04-13). "Hey Vern, I'm a star". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
- "Ernest in 'Quite the Little Shopper'". YouTube. 2007-11-14. Retrieved 2013-09-01.
- "Taco John's Ad with Jim Varney as Ernest". YouTube. 2010-04-05. Retrieved 2013-09-01.
- "Actor Jim "Ernest" Varney dies at 50". Salon. Archived from the original on 2009-06-15. Retrieved 2009-06-15.
- Keel, Beverly. "The Importance of Being Ernest". Weekly Wire. Nashville Scene. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
- Willman, Chris (1993-11-16). "Actor Varney Comfortable as Ernest". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
- Dubois, Stephanie (1989-07-08). "Jim Varney Hopes Cards And Letters Keep Pouring In To Save Poor Ernest". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
- Armstrong, Josh (2011-10-24). "Hey Vern, It’s Ernest collaborator Coke Sams!". KnowTheArtist.com. Archived from the original on 2011-11-30.
- "Biography for Jim Varney". IMDb.com. Archived from the original on 2003-10-09.
- "Ernest Moviesat the Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2013-09-01.
- Anderton (2012-10-12). "Son of Ernest to serve as reboot of long running comedy series". FirstShowing.net.