Nightwatcher's Patrol #1

A breif look back at the late Jim Varney and his title character Ernest.
August 19, 2008
First I would like to say that I hope everyone enjoyed my last article, "Monster Mash". From now on my articles will go by the title "Nightwatcher's Patrol". And now I give you the first installment in my Patrol series, a tribute to the late/great Jim Varney and his title character Ernest P. Worrel. Knowutimean?

In The Beginning...

James Albert Varney Jr. was born on June 10th 1949 and his career started at the young, fresh age of seventeen when he starred in a high school play of A Christmas Carol as Ebeneeser Scrooge. He later went on to perfoming stand up comedy at several different clubs and getting minor roles in movies and television shows.

Step 1: The Commercials/Ernest Is Born

One day Varney was approached by a representative of Carden And Cherry, an Arknsas based advertising company with an idea for a new character. Ernest P. Worrel, a clumsey redneck with a heart of gold becomes the center of a chain of commercials advertising everything from car dealerships (Tyson's Toyota) to multiple dairy companies (Purity, Pine State, Challenge) and even two Coke products, Sprite and Mello Yello "Make the Mello Yello move, knowutimean?". There were also public service anouncements that covered water safety, weed prevention and, of course, smoking and drinking. Funny since smoking is what did Varney in. "If you don't pitch in your part, and I don't pitch in my part, we won't have a part to pitch in. Knowutimean?". The commercials usually had Ernest talking directly to the camera as you were supposed to be looking at the world through the eyes of Vern, Ernest's next door neighbor and best buddy. "Pancakes on parade. You'd butter believe it."

Varney also made a series of shorts called Your World As I See It starring Ernest's overly intelligent, wealthy, snobby and egotistical counterpart Astor Clement who guided us through life's everyday workings in a way even we, the average joe, could understand and usually used Ernest as an exsample. "All vanity comes with a price. Luckily mine's tax deductible. I'm Astor Clement and that's your world as I see it."

Step 2: TV Special/First Shot At The Big Screen

Hey Vern, It's My Family Album (TV movie) 1983

The Ernest commercials became so popular after a while that Carden And Cherry decided to treat the fans to a full blown TV special. Hey Vern, It's My Family Album was a collection of commercials reshot and spread out into a feature length program which centered around Ernest finding his old family album in the attic while doing his spring cleaning. He decides to show it to Vern and in return we are all treated to a Worrel family history lesson, from a battle during the American Revolution all the way up to a day of fishing with a younger Ernest and Grandpa Worrel. As a whole this was the first movie that Ernest appeared in but, incidently, it was also the worst out of the series.

Dr. Otto And The Riddle Of The Gloom Beam (1985)

The evil Dr. Otto Von Schnick-ick-ick, a horribly warped, fifteen fingered fiend wants to take over the world with the help of his latest invention, "The Gloom Beam". With it he will cause wide spread chaos and destruction by demagnetizing everyone's credit cards and ATM cards. It will be the end of the world's financial economy AS-WE-KNOW IT. Only one man, an air head named Lance Sterling, stands between Otto and a steady Stock Market. However, in order to save the world, Lance, along with his partner Doris, must first solve Dr. Otto's devious riddle. Will Lance and Doris save the world? If you could be any animal, which animal would you be? Can you spell Otto backwards? See Dr. Otto and you will know. Note: This movie does not revolve around Ernest but rather the villainous Dr. Otto and so it has a considerably darker tone, but the wrye, slap stick humor of the series is still intact. Also Ernest does make a cameo at the end but it's to complicated to explain here. This is also the second worst Ernest movie next to Hey Vern, It's My Family Album.

Step 3: Ernest Makes It To The Big Time!

Finally, Ernest's popularity payed off and his official movie series began...

Movie 1. Ernest Goes To Camp (1987)

Ernest is working maitenence at Kamp Kikakee, (think of the word Chickadee but spelled with three k's), a special camp for boys, but dreams of someday becoming a councelor and "shaping and molding youthful minds into a focused world view". His chance may finally come this year when he gets to councel a group of juvinile delinquints called "The Second Chance Boys". However, all is not milk and honey at Kamp Kikakee when a mining company called Krader Industries (get it?), run by the evil Shermon Krader (yep, more k's), discovers a large deposite of Petrocite, (a special mineral that is invaluable to all the military and space programs of the world), beneath Kamp Kikakee. Now Krader wants to dynomite the camp to reach the mineral and only Ernest and the Second Chancers can stop them. But will the boys find it in their hardened hearts to befriend Ernest in time or will Kamp Kikakee be lost forever? And let's not forget about the camp's chefs Jake and Eddie and their quest to find the secret ingredient to the quintessential Eggseronious. In my opinion this is the second best movie in the series. I usually watch it during the Summer season.

Hey Vern, It's Ernest (TV show, Sept 17-Dec 24 1988)

For a mere three months in 1988 Ernest got to star in his own Emmy Award winning Saturday morning TV show. It ran for thirteen episodes in all. Their titles and air dates are listed below:

1. Hey Vern, It's Outer Space-9/17
2. Hey Vern, It's Clothing-9/24
3. Hey Vern, It's Scarey Things-10/03
4. Hey Vern, It's Movies-10/08
5. Hey Vern, It's Magic-10/15
6. Hey Vern, It's Sports-10/22
7. Hey Vern, It's Pets-10/29
8. Hey Vern, It's Hobbies-11/05
9. Hey Vern, It's Food-11/12
10. Hey Vern, It's Holidays-12/03
11. Hey Vern, It's School-12/10
12. Hey Vern, It's Lost & Found-12/17
13. Hey Vern, It's Talent-12/24

Each episode was made up of short skits that revolved around a certain theme. It was kind of like Nick's You Can't Do That On Television or as one person put it, a Monty Python for kids. Recurring skits usually included "Lonnie Don's School Of Hollywood Sound Effects", "Haircut", "Sergeant Glory", "My Father The Clown" and "Exsisto The Magnificent". And personally I think that Scarey Things should have been aired on 10/29 and Holidays on 12/24. Here's a shout out for all us Ernest fans: Hey Vern, It's Ernest The Complete Series on DVD! Make it so!!

Movie 2. Ernest Saves Christmas (1988)

Ho, ho, no!
This movie takes place in Orlando, Florida of all places where Ernest is a taxi driver who must help Seth Applegate (aka Santa Clause) find a man named Joe Corrothers so he can become the new Santa. The only catch is that Joe must except the job by 7:00 pm on Christmas Eve or Santa's magic will ware off and Christmas will cease to exsist. The best part is that Ernest gets to take a wild ride in the sleigh with the helper elves. I don't know about you guys but I love Christmas and can't imagine a world without it. It would make Winter way to boring. Note: This is the first and only movie in the series to feature both Astor Clement and Vern.

Movie 3. Ernest Goes To Jail (1990)

Ernest is working as a bank janitor but gets switched with a dangerous convict named Felix Nash who bares an uncanny resemblance to him. Now Ernest must find a way to escape from prison (and Nash's death sentence) while Nash tries to rob the bank. Woah, there's a head spinner. Will Ernest escape prison in time to save the bank and his friends and clear his name? "I came, I saw, I got blowed up."

Movie 4. Ernest Scared Stupid (1991)

Ernest is now a sanitation engineer (they hate it when you call them garbage men) for the town of Briarville, Missouri. As it turns out he and his entire family are also cursed. Ernest's great grandfather Rev. Phinnaeous Worrel helped to rid the town of a hideous evil one hundred years ago and now it's rubbing off. Kind of explains a few things, doesn't it? Ernest has accidently released said evil, an ugly troll named Trantor, from his prison deep beneath a twisted tree and must now defeat him or this may be our last Halloween. This is my favorite out of the series. "Boy ah sure hope yer from Keebler!" Note: Take a close look at the milk cartons that the kids grab from the store while preparing for battle toward the end of the movie. That's right, it's Purity.

Movie 5. Ernest Rides Again (1993)

Ernest and his new best buddy Abner Melon, a history teaching college professor, stumble onto a legendary giant cannon appropriatly called "Goliath" which was used in the Revolutionary War. According to legend the real Crown Jewels of England are hidden in Goliath's barrel (the ones on display in the Tower Of London being clever fakes) and so Professor Melon has been spending the better part of his career trying to find it. Unfortunately he's not alone in his quest. Melon's boss, Dr. Glencliff, wants the jewels for a get rich quick scheme and so the chase is on...literally. Ernest eventually manages to stop the cannon from rolling but after finding the jewels he gets the crown stuck on his head. The British authorities then come in and declare that whomever wares the crown is the new king of England. Fortunately Ernest finally gets the crown unstuck at that very moment. Whew! That was a close one! Note: This was the last Ernest movie to hit theatres because of the negative response from it's audiences. All movies in the series since have been released directly to video.

Movie 6. Ernest Goes To School (1994)

Ernest is enjoying his latest job as a high school janitor when he finds out that the super intendant has changed the rules so that in order for Ernest to keep his job he needs to show a high school diploma. There's only one problem, he never graduated which means he has to go *gulp* BACK TO SCHOOL!! In order to graduate and get his diploma Ernest must pass his final exam and fortunately he has made friends with a group of students who are willing to help him out. Along with the science teachers who turn out to be actual scientists and their new machine which can turn even someone like Ernest into a super genious. Unfortunately it also turns him into a super jerk. But when Ernest and the kids learn (no pun intended) of a plot to buy the school to merge it with another, will they be able to help Ernest pass his exam and save the school? It may be tough since the school's fate depends on a football game which Ernest and his young friends have no idea how to play. Hopefully the machine can help in some way here.

Movie 7. Slam Dunk Ernest (1995)

Ernest is working as a shopping mall janitor along with a goup of guys who also have their very own neigborhood basketball team called the Clean Sweeps. Basketball is Ernest's favorite sport (hence the name of his dog Rimshot in previous movies) and he has always wanted to play. There is, as always, one little problem...he stinks, mostly due to his lack of aim. And so every time he asks the guys if he can join them in a game they turn him down, gently of course. But one night Ernest is visited by the archangel of basketball (NBA super star Kareem Abdul Jabbar) who gives him an offer. He gives Ernest a special pair of sneakers that will enable him to play like a pro but also warnes him "Don't misuse the shoes". Of course Ernest completely disobeys the angel especially after being tempted by a mysterious mogul and soon makes it to the pro courts, without the help of his friends. Before he knows it Ernest is the center of attention and has a solo game against the Charlotte Hornets. Will Ernest snap back to his senses in time to save his friendship with the guys or will he let his new found fame and fortune go to his head?

Movie 8. Ernest Goes To Africa (1997)

Ernest wants to impress his high school love interest Rene Loomis and decides to do so by making her a gift, a special yo-yo that he made out of a pair of seemingly ordinary crystal- like stones which he bought at an outdoor flea market. Rene turns him down though because she wants a man who is more daring and adventurous. It turns out however, that the two stones that Ernest made the yo-yo out of are concidered sacred to a native tribe in Africa whom they were stolen from and Ernest is acused of being a sceret double agent and the thief. He and Rene are then kidnapped and taken to Africa where Ernest must return the jewels and save Rene while also avoiding some of Africa's other perils like snakes, Rhinos and the ocassional vampire fish. Wait, what? Note: This is the third worst Ernest movie next to Dr. Otto.

Movie 9. Ernest In The Army (aka Stormin' Ernest) 1998

Retro junkies, ten hut! In his final movie Ernest is working as a rangeboy at a military boot camp but dreams of one day being able to drive the Army big rigs (esspecially tanks, heaven help us). In order to make his dream a reality, Ernest enlists in the reserves but is quickly called into battle overseas to help stop a ruthless Middle Eastern dictater from using our country's latest test missel against us. While in the Mid East Ernest befriends a little boy who's father is being held prisoner by said dictator. This is Ernest's last chance to prove that he really can be a hero, not just to a boy's summer camp or even a holiday, but to our entire country, and a little boy who needs his father. When in combat there is but one rule you must remember above all others: always stick by your buddy, knowhutimean?

Movie 10. Ernest The Pirate (incomplete) 2001-2002

Not much is known about this movie other than some how Ernest becomes a pirate and has a swashbuckeling adventure on the high seas. This movie probably would have done well with the pirate mainia generated by the Pirates Of The Caribbean trilogy. Sadly Jim Varney passed away just as the film was nearing completion so it was never finished. Alas, a yarn untold. Arrrgh.

Varney's Last Stand

Jim Varney managed to finish one more movie before his death. In Disney's Atlantis The Lost Empire (2001) he voiced the crew's chef Cookie. "I got yer four basic food groups: beans, bacon, whiskey n' lard". Ironically the movie was released a year after his death. Varney passed away of lung cancer on February 10th, 2000 at approximately 4:45 am ET. He was 50 years young. I know not everyone out there was really crazy about Jim Varney but if some of you could take a moment of silence after reading this article I would really appreciate it. Special thanks to wikipedia for some of this info and some unnamed costumers of amazon for their scans of at least four of the Ernest movies. (The rest were mine).
More Articles From Nightwatcher
10 years, 11 months ago
Even more good news. On January 18th 2011, Hey Vern, It's Ernest was released on DVD by Mill Creek Entertainment. For those not in the know, Mill Creek is the same company responsible for the Ultimate, Maximum and Essential Ernest collections (the latter set being the one I took my above screen shots from). I kind of feel like I had something to do with this so you're welcome. Pick up a copy today and enjoy, knowutimean?
    11 years, 4 months ago
    Good news. Coke has finally answered my prayers and started distributing Mello Yello up here! I actually got my first taste of it (ironicly enough) in Disney World during our first vacation there (we've been down there twice so far). I found some in a soda machine at our hotel so I quickly scooped up a bottle (for $2.75!). That was okay though because I enjoyed it. It's not as sweet as Mountain Dew so Ernest was right, it definately tastes better. Now I can pick up a twelve pack of cans at the local super market and throw about six in the fridge at a time to enjoy whenever I want! Thanks Coke, you've made my day. Make the Mello Yello move, knowutimean? And thank you guys for the positive comments, I really appreciated it.
      13 years, 2 months ago
      Just as a note on Jim Varney's voice acting he was the voice of Slinky in Toy Story and Toy Story 2. Hope you enjoy this bit of info take care.
        13 years, 3 months ago
        He always liked to eat the eyes out first in the chocolate Easter bunnies.
          13 years, 4 months ago
          You forgot that Jim Varney also starred in the movie version of Beverly Hillbillies as the lovable, if not naive, Jed Clampet.
          It made me sad that when the Academy Awards honored him during their In Memory segment, they only used footage from that movie and nothing from any of the numerous Ernest films, his signature role.
            13 years, 4 months ago
            Never mind about the Mello Yello folks. Turns out I just embarrased myself on a global scale, Mello Yello is not available where I live, only in the south. Oh well, at least I still have Sprite, knowutimean?
              13 years, 4 months ago
              man, I loved jim's work. I have a dvd with 2 movies and all his commercials. he seemed like such a nice guy too. he also was a nice family friendly comedian. I was sad when he died. he never got to finish "ernest the pirate", and now there's no more ernest. loved the article. jim seemed like one of those celebrities that didn't let stardom go over his head. I know he visited sick children in hospitals as ernest, seemed so friendly. rest in peace, jim.
                13 years, 4 months ago
                I always heard he made the best of a bad situation. That situation being that he was typecast as Ernest almost all the time, until it was the only kind of work he could get.

                I'm told he was a really good Shakespearian actor who just happened to get the Ernest thing on the side...and the next thing you know, it's all he was doing.

                I'm not saying he hated it (I really don't know), I'm just saying that sometimes people think that playing Ernest meant that he was a bad actor, but I think the opposite is true. The reason Ernest is so well liked and genuine is because of the kind of acting Jim Varney put into the character to make him seem that way.

                Give the man a posthumous academy award, people! (Yeah, it'll never happen, I know, but I can dream).
                  13 years, 4 months ago
                  Thank you ChowTimer, you've hit every nail on the head. That is exactly how I feel about Jim Varney and it's why I liked him so much. I'll also throw in that he didn't seem to take himself to seriously as Ernest which also helped to build the character we all know and love. Thanks for the positive input guys, keep it coming.
                    13 years, 4 months ago
                    i used to especially love earnest's commercials for gas heat... "heat pump shmeat pump"... and "gee im glad its raining" from goes to camp still tears me up a little.
                      13 years, 4 months ago
                      i didn't read the article and thats because i don't have to, because i already know jim varney is god
                        13 years, 4 months ago
                        Great article.

                        I'll throw in that you also forgot to give a mention that he was in the "Beverly Hillbillies" movie in the role of Jed Clampett...and he was pretty damn good in it too.
                          13 years, 5 months ago
                          Thanks for all the positive feedback guys, I really appreciate it. Yes, dalmationlover is right, I forgot to add Ernest At Splash Mountain. It was aired along with Goes To Camp on The Wonderful World of Disney in 1989 and acted as both a support for the movie and a promotion for the ride at Walt Disney World in Florida which had apparently just opened at the time. Thanks for that one dalmationlover, that pretty much covers everything Ernest now. Also, I share your sympathy over Varney's death, my heart sank when I found out...six years later. That's why I wrote this article, to be my own personal tribute to Jim Varney, I figured I owed him for that. They tried to replace him with some other guy who looks alot like him but is just not the same. (You can see that commercial on youtube). Keep the positive stuff coming and I'll keep checking back to see what you have to say. Also, I live in Soffolk County, New York and if anyone knows where I can find some Mello Yello out here I would really appreciate it.
                            13 years, 5 months ago
                            very nice article
                            Ernest Saves Christmas is close to me even to this day because it reminds me of Orlando FL was like back then when i was a kid as appose to now..
                              13 years, 5 months ago
                              I remember watching ernest's tv show and watching almost all the movies. I remember some of the commercials that he was in. My favorite of the movie series was ernest scared stupid i still laugh at it even to this day. one of my favorite quotes from the movie was "how about a bumper sandwich, booger lips, hehehehehe.
                              rest in peace jim varney
                                13 years, 5 months ago
                                I loved Ernest. He was a childhood favorite. I liked the faces he made when he was scared and happy. I did not know until now that he was in commercials. Very Nice Article. Well done.
                                  13 years, 5 months ago
                                  Ernest Scared Stupid is one the finest films I've ever seen.
                                    13 years, 5 months ago
                                    Great article. I've seen most of these and enjoyed them all. Always sad to be reminded of his death and his dreams of being a serious actor, but he still made a great contribution to the world through laughter.
                                      13 years, 5 months ago
                                      Ernest goes to Camp and Ernest Scared Stupid are some of the funniest movies I remember seeing as a young'n. Awesomely stupid complete with talking para-trooper turtles. Pure joy
                                        13 years, 5 months ago
                                        Jim Varney...we hardly knew ye.

                                        I'm surprised that you forgot to mention the TV special, "Ernest Goes to Splash Mountain", which was made as a special for the grand opening of Splash Mountain at Disneyland.
                                          13 years, 5 months ago
                                          I agree with dalmationlover (I never thought I'd say that), leaving out "Ernest Goes to Splash Mountain" was a glaring omission. I can still remember Ernest needing to breath with an oxygen mask beacause he was hyperventilating so much from fear of the impending drop.

                                          I lost interest in Ernest after "Scared Stupid", but I do remember on a rainy day in Junior High my P.E. teacher got the bright idea to show "Slam Dunk Ernest" to a bunch of 13 year olds. Great idea-NOT! (Note: It was still cool to quote Wayne's World back then).
                                            13 years, 5 months ago
                                            i was large jim varney fan. i was very sad to see him go.
                                              13 years, 5 months ago
                                              I've seen some Ernest movies...they were pretty good. :)
                                                13 years, 5 months ago
                                                He always makes me laugh no matter what. It sad when you think about his passing away. His last movie was treehouse hostage (disney) movie.
                                                  13 years, 5 months ago
                                                  My Favorite of the movie series was Ernest Scared Stupid. I can watch it anytime.
                                                    13 years, 5 months ago
                                                    I never saw the Africa or Army one. I must now go forth and pillage entire kingdoms for these movies.

                                                    Jim was always a favorite of mine, and hell, when he got the chance to play in Beverly Hillbillies, we all know Jim fans went and saw it just because of him.
                                                      13 years, 5 months ago
                                                      Another little known fact about Jim Varney is that he could sing. I only heard one song he recorded, a cover of "Hot Rod Lincoln" but it was done very well. R.I.P. Jim. You are missed.
                                                        13 years, 5 months ago
                                                        Ahh, good ol' Ernest! He was one of my most beloved childhood characters! A good-intentioned, not the sharpest-tool-in-the-shed, regular guy! You can't not love Ernest!
                                                          13 years, 5 months ago
                                                          you forgot he did the voice of slinky in toy story 1 and 2.
                                                            13 years, 5 months ago
                                                            Jim Varney was definitely one of the greatest. He had a great career, he was hilarious as Ernest, and died way too early. RIP Jim Varney
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