Yeah, Miak! I bet you thought I couldn't find any at this time of the year...
October 18, 2012 6:18 AM   Subscribe

Ernest P. Worrell was a character created by actor Jim Varney and commercial director John Cherry. Before their remarkable films and tv series, Ernest appeared in untold numbers of commercials for everything from local car dealers to Coca-Cola. Here are 106 of them.

Interspersed with the ads are segments from the first Ernest film, the direct to video Knowhutimean? Hey Vern, It's My Family Album, like this one featuring Varney as Ernest's grandfather Rhetch Worrell in a high-stakes poker game.

After Varney's death in 2000, Ernest's apperances were limited to a handful of local commercials, but Variety reports that work has begun on Son of Ernest.
posted by modernserf (76 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
 
Every now and then I'll accidentally say "knowhutimean, Vern?" and then I have to have another half hour long conversation with my wife trying to explain Ernest to her; it never works.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:22 AM on October 18, 2012 [15 favorites]


[INSERT IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST JOKE HERE]

I loved Ernest growing up. My mom had to ban my Dad and I calling each other Vern at the kitchen table.

So we started calling her Vern.

We ate out a lot more after that.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:23 AM on October 18, 2012 [20 favorites]


One of the most appealing elements of the multiverse theory, for me, is the idea that somewhere, there's a world where Jim Varney's career followed a similar trajectory to Bill Murray.
I would love to see his work with bizarro-wes-anderson.

Variety reports that work has begun on Son of Ernest.

please, no.
posted by dubold at 6:24 AM on October 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


I'm afraid to go back and rewatch the Earnest films because I adored them as a kid and I'm afraid that they'll be awful.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:25 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


One of my most prized possessions when I was ten was an autographed picture of Ernest, acquired for me by a friend of my dad's who had a bit part in Ernest Goes to Jail.

I also think about MIAK just all the dang time.
posted by whitneyarner at 6:25 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


My god, the 80's had a distinct aesthetic. Maybe it's the lighting, but there's a little bit of Spielberg in those commercials.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:27 AM on October 18, 2012


I have always loved Ernest so so much and my favorite line of his from the direct-to-video thing that he was going to give his gal: "buffalo chips as big as diamonds".

This previously unseen (by me) blooper reel is pretty good so far.
posted by DU at 6:29 AM on October 18, 2012


This is one franchise I am totally OK with the cultural sausage factory resurrecting. Maybe they can dig up the "where's the beef?" lady's granddaughter too.
posted by nowhere man at 6:33 AM on October 18, 2012


I would love to see his work with bizarro-wes-anderson.

...starring Jim Varney in Peter and Bobby Farrelly's Broken Flowers
posted by griphus at 6:36 AM on October 18, 2012


I wish I could find the clip of Jim Varney on Viva Variety in Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Ernest."
posted by infinitewindow at 6:36 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


My family adored his commercials, and I thought his children's show was quite good too. I never saw any of the Ernest movies because he seemed like he'd be better in small doses.

Thanks for this post, modernserf!
posted by emjaybee at 6:38 AM on October 18, 2012


I'm afraid to go back and rewatch the Earnest films because I adored them as a kid and I'm afraid that they'll be awful.

I'm positive they're terrible, but I loved them too. I'm a 36 year old woman and there are still a couple of (female) friends from my childhood that I think of as "Vern" in my head due to longstanding nicknames.

I just went to read Jim Varney's wikipedia page to see what he's been up to, and am saddened to find that he died of lung cancer 13 years ago. But I also learned this, and am having trouble processing it:

Varney said his dream role would have been to perform Hamlet.
posted by something something at 6:39 AM on October 18, 2012


...there's a world where Jim Varney's career followed a similar trajectory to Bill Murray.

My working theory is that Jim Varney's career was stolen by Tim Allen, who, of course, put it to no good use whatsoever.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:40 AM on October 18, 2012 [11 favorites]


His last words to his companion were, "Please leave the window open."

Aah, jeebus.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:43 AM on October 18, 2012


There was a bit in his book HEY VERN IT'S THE ERNEST P. WORRELL BOOK OF KNOWLEDGE that I still use. When in a movie theater getting popcorn, if the guy behind the counter says "would you like butter with that?" I reply in a very loud voice: "BUTTER? Why treat me special? Why don't you give me the yellow grease you give everyone else?"
posted by Xoc at 6:44 AM on October 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


Ernest Scared Stupid was one of my favorite movies in childhood. That probably explains a lot about my current comedic tastes.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 6:46 AM on October 18, 2012


He reminds me of George W, knowhutimean, Vern?
posted by growabrain at 6:47 AM on October 18, 2012


At least ten percent of ask metafilter questions make more sense if you read them with Ernest's voice in your head and append a 'Vern'.
posted by bukvich at 6:50 AM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Between his TV show and Peewee's Playhouse the mid to late 80s were a magically screwed up time to be an impressionable child.
posted by Palindromedary at 6:58 AM on October 18, 2012 [12 favorites]


My working theory is that Jim Varney's career was stolen by Tim Allen, who, of course, put it to no good use whatsoever.

I never liked Tim Allen, but... Galaxy Quest, man.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:01 AM on October 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


I was watching an old Fernwood 2 Night episode, and was surprised to see him pop up there in his pre-Ernest days! I loved that guy. The 80's were truly a great era for TV commercials.
posted by not_on_display at 7:02 AM on October 18, 2012


Jim Varney is the sweet comedic alternative to the chalkboard scratching Larry the Cable Guy. (although both made Pixar films)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:03 AM on October 18, 2012


I enjoy Jim Varney in the same way that I can watch Tommy Boy over and over. There is a certain wicked delight in the overtly stupid if it's the right stupid.

Plus, and this always sets me out as a weirdo, I was completely hot for Varney as a big lanky expressive man who had that certain combination of facial features and overall demeanor that I call "big dick face" in a not-at-all pejorative way. I do have to wonder sometimes how many other people in the world watched Ernest Scared Stupid in a mildly flushed and possibly tumescent state.

His TV show had about the same weirdly lasting effect on me that one of my other youthful private pleasures, Madam's Place, had.

Strange, the power of cheap television.
posted by sonascope at 7:03 AM on October 18, 2012


The 80's were truly a great era for TV commercials.

This is the best backhanded compliment I've ever heard.
posted by griphus at 7:03 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ernest Rides Again is a genuinely surreal movie. In it, Ernest spends 4/5 of the film straddling a large rocket/missile on the back of a runaway trailer. This is honestly the meat of the picture. Many words could be used to describe it, but 'cookiecutter' should never be amongst them. There is nothing else like it. Seek it out.
posted by item at 7:06 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ok, so upon reading the synopsis of Rides Again, it's looking like my memery of it fits in nicely in my '1990's Hallucinations' folder. Oh well.
posted by item at 7:13 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


It was like Being John Malkovich in reverse because we were really Vern.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:14 AM on October 18, 2012


Ok, so upon reading the synopsis of Rides Again, it's looking like my memery of it fits in nicely in my '1990's Hallucinations' folder. Oh well.

Ernest Goes to Jail features Ernest being the subject of a botched execution and ends with him gaining the ability to fly because he got electrocuted twice.

Your specific memory might be a hallucination, but Ernest movies are weird.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:19 AM on October 18, 2012


Also, think how great it would have been if Varney did a few guest hosts of "Dirty Jobs." His "ewwww" face would work nicely.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:20 AM on October 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I celebrated my 16th birthday seeing Ernest Rides Again with my Dad and brother. We would have been the only people in the theater, but a couple walked in shortly before the movie started, and asked if this was the Ernest movie. My Dad gestured to the empty seats and said, "What do you think?"
I was a huge Ernest fan, saw all the movies in the theater and rented all the direct to video ones after that, including Slam Dunk Ernest which featured Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Ernest Goes to Africa which did not.
posted by cottoncandybeard at 7:22 AM on October 18, 2012


Earnest Saves Christmas is quite one of the better silly Xmas romps.

He always hewed close but exactly on the right of winkingly campy. And that is really hard to pull off for a movie, much less a career. But he did it.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:24 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I do have to wonder sometimes how many other people in the world watched Ernest Scared Stupid in a mildly flushed and possibly tumescent state.

We are all allowed to experience Ernest in our own special way.
posted by joedanger at 7:27 AM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Awww Ernest! I love Ernest! Thanks for posting!
posted by windykites at 7:39 AM on October 18, 2012


Ernest sad song montage (the one where he serenades his turtle) in Ernest goes to Camp...

SADDEST MOMENT EVAR!
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:42 AM on October 18, 2012


During Jim Varney's heyday, which was also when I was quite young, I worked in an office where one of my bosses was named Vern.

He endured my quoting Jim Varney with infinite patience.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:57 AM on October 18, 2012


I now live in Lexington, KY. A few years ago, after a heavy lunch one summer afternoon with a friend visiting from out of town, we decided to take a walk. So we went down to the Lexington Cemetery to stroll around--it's a beautiful place in the Spring. As we prowled around, we noticed this one brand new headstone surrounded by an entire section of older, weathered markers. Curious, we walked over and there he rested--Jim Varney, a new old soul.

We offered homage.
posted by CincyBlues at 7:59 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


there he rested--Jim Varney, a new old soul.

We offered homage.


I know what you mean.
 
posted by Herodios at 8:03 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Before he was Ernest, Jim Varney studied acting and did some plays. He actually could recite fairly convincing-sounding Shakespearean dialogue, which I remember seeing him do once on some talk show. Ernest was a determinedly silly character, but usually could get a chuckle out of me whenever I'd happen across him.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 8:05 AM on October 18, 2012


When I was first introduced I conflated, for obvious reasons, Ernest P. and Ernest T. Is there more than a coincidental connection, I wonder, between Varney's character and the Ernest T. Bass of Mayberry?
posted by TreeRooster at 8:07 AM on October 18, 2012


I can't believe this thread has gotten all this way without anyone mentioning the role of the late Phil Walden in Varney's career. Walden had been Otis Redding's manager, and after his death became known as the the guy who founded Capricorn Records and launched the Allman Brothers Band. After the label went downhill, and he had all manner of drug and financial issues, managing Varney got Walden going again. Varney was his cash cow, and he used the money to help him relaunch Capricorn.
posted by raysmj at 8:14 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'll just leave this here.
posted by exit at 8:15 AM on October 18, 2012


Yeah, Miak! I bet you thought I couldn't find any at this time of the year...
The memories.... I probably saw that film a half-dozen times and the miak joke never got old.
posted by ish__ at 8:21 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was watching an old Fernwood 2 Night episode, and was surprised to see him pop up there in his pre-Ernest days! I loved that guy. The 80's were truly a great era for TV commercials.
--not_on_displa

Yes, Fernwood 2 Night, the fake talk show with Martin Mull, had the first Verne, the guest auto mechanic. There were episodes where he talked about his daredevil stunts (jumping over 100 motorcycles with his RV, and getting injured by a flying catchup bottle), and how to mess a car up so the dealer will do a lot of repairs before the warranty ends (example, filling the car with bricks then slamming on the accelerator, or cut the awl dipstick with your wah cutters "all?" "no awl" "wall cutters?" "no wah cutters" so it looks like your car won't hold oil)
posted by eye of newt at 8:45 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


There was a bit in his book HEY VERN IT'S THE ERNEST P. WORRELL BOOK OF KNOWLEDGE that I still use.

Ha, I thought my Dad was the only person in the world who actually owned that book. I read it almost to pieces in my childhood.
posted by Rangeboy at 8:45 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ernest Goes To Camp was one of the few movies (Spaceballs and Police Academy 2 included) that remind me of the 80s, and two of my best friends from childhood who I haven't seen in years, more than anything else.
posted by stltony at 8:46 AM on October 18, 2012


Here's a Fernwood 2 Night episode with Virgil Simms (not Verne as I stated).
posted by eye of newt at 8:53 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


The only role I can remember Jim Varney playing that wasn't Ernest or a Beverly Hillbilly was a small role in that atrocious final season of Roseanne. (Also featuring Fernwood 2 Night's Martin Mull.) The story was ludicrous--worse than any Ernest film--but Varney showed he was entirely capable of playing against type.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:05 AM on October 18, 2012


My father-in-law is a quite respectable culture critic and he always calls Ernest "Ernst," we think to make him sound respectable too. Maybe he fools his academic friends, and maybe not. We watch an awful lot of Ernst in the Fabula-Hammond house.
posted by S'Tella Fabula at 9:11 AM on October 18, 2012


I probably have not thought about Ernest P. Worrell for at least two decades, and yet this post takes me right back to a glorious afternoon sometime in elementary school, i.e. the late 80s, that my brother and I spent with a rented copy of the blooper and commercial video, two liters' worth of orange Crush floats, and like a POUND of penny candy.
posted by clavicle at 9:16 AM on October 18, 2012


Well, Ernest's films have a certain Dada sense to them. I can see the connection.
posted by modernserf at 9:17 AM on October 18, 2012


In fact, the "foreign count" or whatever he was on that last season of Roseanne was, as I understood it, a part much closer to his original training and aspirations than the rube he made legendary.

Husband and I still squint at each other and intone "It's a war on weeds, Verne," "Hand me that caramel," "My daddy used to work on them," etc., as appropriate, having been delighted to find a VHS compilation of his commercials, which one of us accidentally taped over most of later. Probably me.
posted by Occula at 9:24 AM on October 18, 2012


Between his TV show and Peewee's Playhouse the mid to late 80s were a magically screwed up time to be an impressionable child.

Yeah, Beakman's World falls into this camp too. There were some really good Saturday morning kids shows.
posted by nushustu at 9:25 AM on October 18, 2012


But - oh yeah! - when the Beverly Hillbillies movie came out, I remember thinking that Jed was the role he'd been working toward his whole life.
posted by Occula at 9:26 AM on October 18, 2012


having been delighted to find a VHS compilation of his commercials, which one of us accidentally taped over most of later. Probably me.

As a kid, my dad and I rented a copy of a VHS compilation of Ernest commercials from the video rental department of a Phar-Mor. We picked up that and a VHS of airplane bloopers and watched them together.

There's something peculiarly perfect about that memory.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:36 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just went to read Jim Varney's wikipedia page to see what he's been up to, and am saddened to find that he died of lung cancer 13 years ago.

When he died that year the Academy Awards included him in their annual death montage, and it made me really angry that practically no one clapped for him.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:42 AM on October 18, 2012


Also, think how great it would have been if Varney did a few guest hosts of "Dirty Jobs." His "ewwww" face would work nicely.

Yeah, I kind of find his resemblance to a possible relative of Mike Rowe uncanny.
posted by hanoixan at 10:06 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Strangely enough, I just looked Jim Varney up on on IMDB last night. I was watching West Side Story and thought that I saw a very young Varney. It wasn't him. I too was surprised to find out that he had died.
posted by JennyJupiter at 10:10 AM on October 18, 2012


We can just all pretend that Varney was in fact a Shark or a Jet, though.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:18 AM on October 18, 2012


Tom Waits + Jon Stewart = Ernest P. Worrell
posted by not_on_display at 10:26 AM on October 18, 2012


I loved Ernest as a kid, except Ernest Scared Stupid was the most terrifying thing I had ever experienced.
posted by ckape at 10:34 AM on October 18, 2012


I was watching an old Fernwood 2 Night episode,....

Reason #127 why I feel comfortable around here.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:53 AM on October 18, 2012


Does anyone remember if Ernest did commercials for Ernst in Western Washington? I remember making a mental connection between the two when I was very young, but now I'm not sure if it was because the names were so similar that I just assumed they were associated, or because he actually did commercials...
posted by illenion at 10:55 AM on October 18, 2012


When I was a senior in college, I had a freeform radio show that ran 5-7 Saturday morning and I'd stay up all night to do it and stagger home and wait for my housemates to wake up and then we'd all watch the Ernest show and the Ed Grimley cartoon, both of which were that much more surreal when one hasn't slept for 30 hours...
posted by AJaffe at 11:02 AM on October 18, 2012


For anyone wondering, the Ernest movies totally hold up (at least the few that I had been a fan of as a kid. Camp, Christmas and Jail. A lot of the surreality of Ernest movies is how they play with the conceit that the world really runs on Ernest logic and all of the "normal" people struggle through their quiet desperation because they don't get that like he does.

It's really quite a tough needle to thread but he pulled it off consistently.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:24 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't think I'll ever hear So Happy Together without picturing all those kids singing it to the turtle.

ps I went to see if that clip was on youtube and it looks like the entire movie is there in pieces
posted by mannequito at 12:09 PM on October 18, 2012


One of my most cherished possessions was a worn VHS copy of Dr. Otto and the Riddle of the Gloom-beam. That part where Dr. Otto blows up his parents, or hijacks Lance's voting both with Willy. Auntie Nelda. All those lovable characters from his morning show. Man, that was great.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 12:21 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Two memories:

1. Fresh out of college & still smack dab in the middle of my party years, we'd smoke a few & hang out. One day we hit the video store under the influence & my friend picked out a tape of nothing but Ernest commercials. He popped that one in without telling us what it was. Our stomachs & ribs were so. sore the next day from laughing.

2. I loved Fernwood Tonight. Favorite quote: "You don't sweat much, for a big ol' fat girl!"
posted by yoga at 1:13 PM on October 18, 2012


Another wonderful thing about the Ernest movies: the great Gailard Sartain, also known as the "the leather seats on my private jet are worn" guy from The Jerk. But he's a whole nother post.
posted by Occula at 2:22 PM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I watched that blooper link above and just had the surprising thought that Jim Varney would probably have been able to pull off any of the parts that I most strongly associate with Tim Curry. Something to do with the exaggeration?

I went to the same high school as he did, about 25 years later, and am basking in the reflected glory.
posted by dilettante at 3:50 PM on October 18, 2012


Ernest? *goes on IMDb* Ohhh, the guy who voiced Slinky Dog in Toy Story!

I'll get off your lawn now.
posted by book 'em dano at 3:56 PM on October 18, 2012


Ah Ernest.

I used to watch his commecials as a kid and loved them. When Ernest Goes to Camp came out, I somehow saw it and loved it. My uncle watched it, too. I remember he tried to make the face once (the 'ewwwwwwww' face) and couldn't quite get it. So I worked on it and perfected it for him. So we'd play off on each other (mind you, he's 20 years older than me). 'knowwhatimean vern?' became a standard quote between us, followed by one of us giving the face.

I enjoyed Ernest Saves Christmas and grimaced through Ernest Goes to Jail (though I loved his old woman character immensely). I worked at a movie theater when Ernest Scared Stupid came out and would go in near the end when he defends the tree just to see him in all his characters. I always smiled as I watched it.

When I heard his voice on Toy Story, I almost jumped out of my seat. I knew that guy!

A year or 2 ago, I put on Ernest Goes to Camp for my kids. They know the 'ewwww' face and a few quotes, so the movie put it into context.

One of my favorite quotes from Camp: "Don't ever, ever do this to a family of badgers. Aba daba daba daba daba daba daba! AHHHHHHH"
posted by Nadie_AZ at 5:36 PM on October 18, 2012


Oh, Ernest! For those adults wondering, you will enjoy watching Ernest movies you LOVED 20 years ago. Your significant other who did not see the movies as a child will be bored and confused.

Like, I just told Klang that my plan is to watch all 100 Ernest commercials tonight. He simply left the room.
posted by holyrood at 8:05 PM on October 18, 2012


The picture of Jim Varney on his wikipedia page is unsettlingly attractive.

Is this what growing up is?
posted by whitneyarner at 10:34 PM on October 18, 2012


The picture of Jim Varney on his wikipedia page is unsettlingly attractive.

That's just impossible. I'm gonna go over to Wikipedia just to make sure that you're full of ..... well, whataya know?
posted by benito.strauss at 10:54 PM on October 18, 2012


KnowwhutImean?
posted by whitneyarner at 11:09 PM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


For years after watching Ernest Saves Christmas, "air brakes" was a common refrain in the Rangeboy household.
posted by Rangeboy at 8:18 AM on October 19, 2012


« Older Two Fires - on the horrific fire in a garment...   |   Go for it! CHROME Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments