P. Worrell - The pushy, uninvited next-door
neighbor of the long suffering (but never seen) Vern in a series of TV
commercials starring Jim Varney. Ernest P. Worrell had the bad habit of turning
up at the most inopportune moments on a series of regional commercials that
hawked a variety of products with Ernest as their spokesman. John Cherry,
creator of the character, described him as the guy who lived next door, knew all
there was to know about everything, got the better deal on everything and most
importantly, the one person you hated to see come into your yard. Speaking with
a backwoods southern drawl, Ernest began each commercial with "Hey! Vern" and
ended it with "Kno-whut- I-Mean!"
According to his biography, "Ernest had a lot of jobs: thrill driver for state
fairs, janitor, and cab driver. He started in the hardware business; that's
where he got his middle initial which stands for "Powertools." In the
commercials he had a mythical wife named Edna (or maybe she's a sister) and an
unseen boy, little Ernie. All we ever saw of the boy was the top of his hat
(because they couldn't find a boy ugly enough to be his kid).
Jim Varney (a.k.a. "Ernest P. Worrell") was a former standup comic and
Shakespearean actor turned successful commercial personality. In the early
1970s, Varney started doing acting parts for "Puritan Dairy" as the spit &
polished Sergeant Glory who became popular with the people in the Tennessee
viewing area. Varney's bug eyes, wide-mouth grin and big ears soon made him
popular with American audiences everywhere when he began his Ernest P. Worrell
commercials in the 1980s.
Wearing his trademark duckbill cap and vest, his country bumpkin
characterization of Ernest P. Worrell pushed over 3000 regional products in a
series of 30-second commercial spots produced by the Carden-Cherry Ad agency
which charged $7,000-10,000 a commercial.
In the Ernest commercials, he got his fingers slammed in a house window, fell
off a ladder and got electrically shocked fooling with a broken TV set among
The popularity of the Ernest character spawned a video entitled "The Ernest P.
Worrell Family Album"; as well as a series of "Ernest" movies like Ernest Goes to
Camp (1987), Ernest Saves Christmas (1988), Ernest Goes To Jail (1990),
Scared Stupid (1991), Ernest Goes to School (1994), Ernest Goes to Africa (1997)
and Ernest in the Army (1998).
Varney also performed on the Emmy winning show for kids HEY VERN!, IT'S ERNEST!/FAM/1992;
was featured in a book "Hey Vern!, It's the Ernest P. Worrell Book of Knowledge"
(1985); and appeared in The Ernest Film Festival, a 55-minute compilation of his
commercial ads and recreated the role of Jed Clampett in the movie remake of The
Beverly Hillbillies (1993).
Other Varney TV roles included carnival worker, Evan Earp in the short-lived
series THE ROUSTERS/NBC/1983-84; Seaman Broom on OPERATION PETTICOAT/ABC/1977-79
and Bunny Jeannette, a bumbling beautician (who manicured with an electric
grinder) in a series of TV ads in the 1990s.
Jim Varney was born on June 14, 1949 in Lexington, Kentucky. He was diagnosed
with cancer in August 1998 and died of lung cancer at his home in White House,
Tennessee on February 10, 2000 at the age of 50.