Ernest P. Worrell

Ernest P. Worrell
Ernest P. Worrell character

Jim Varney as Ernest P. Worrell
Created by Carden & Cherry Advertising Agency[1]
Portrayed by Jim Varney[2]
Aliases Ernest Powertools Worrell[3][4]
Gender Male
Relatives See below

Ernest P. Worrell is a fictional character portrayed by American actor Jim Varney in a series of television commercials, primarily shot on digital video (a novelty at the time), 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 & Cherry and was used in various local television ad campaigns.[5] The only national products he promoted were The Coca-Cola Company's sodas,[6] Chex, and Taco John's.[7] 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?"[8] 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 III 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.[9][10] 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.[11] 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


Ernest also had several pets during the course of his career. They are listed below in order of appearance.


  • rereleased as Ernest Greatest Hits Volume One (1992) (direct-to-video)
  • rereleased as Ernest Greatest Hits Volume Two (1992) (direct-to-video)


Scrapped films

In 1990, six Ernest films were reported to be in development.[5] 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."[12]

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."[12]

Ernest and the Water girl was also announced in 1990, described as "Ernest meets ariel 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 mysterious women, the water girl. she was a mermaid like creature he found back in the swamp. Of course, she became his buddy. Somehow the bad guys found out about it, and they wanted to use her 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 girl. But Ernest had her. 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 girl a lot. It had enough heart to make you care about Ernest and enough stupidity to be really funny. ... Water girl was actually a good script. I think it might have proven too expensive, or they just went in another direction."[12]

Ernest goes to the circus Ernest goes to paradisetown [ branson ] bowlarama Ernest Ernest in shining armour and Sherlock Ernest were mentioned but were never made due to expensive propping

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.[13] 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.[12]

Box office

Film Release date Box office revenue Reference
Ernest Goes to Camp May 22, 1987 $23,509,382 [14]
Ernest Saves Christmas November 11, 1988 $28,202,109 [14]
Ernest Goes to Jail April 6, 1990 $25,029,569 [14]
Ernest Scared Stupid October 11, 1991 $14,143,280 [14]
Ernest Rides Again November 12, 1993 $1,450,029 [14]

Recurring cast

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
Jim Varney
(Ernest P. Worrell)
Green tickGreen tickGreen tickGreen tickGreen tickGreen tickGreen tickGreen tickGreen tickGreen tickGreen tick
Gailard Sartain
(as Chuck)
Red XGreen tickGreen tickGreen tickGreen tickRed XRed XRed XRed XRed XRed X
Bill Byrge
(as Bobby)
Green tickRed XGreen tickGreen tickGreen tickGreen tickRed XGreen tickRed XRed XRed X
Jackie Welch
(as Various)
Green tickRed XGreen tickGreen tickGreen tickGreen tickRed XRed XRed XRed XRed X
Daniel Butler
(as Various)
Green tickGreen tickGreen tickGreen tickGreen tickGreen tickRed XRed XRed XRed XRed X
Linda Kash
(as Various)
Red XRed XRed XRed XRed XRed XGreen tickGreen tickRed XGreen tickRed X
John R. Cherry III
(as Various)
Red XRed XRed XRed XRed XRed XRed XRed XRed XGreen tickGreen tick


Ernest has been parodied in numerous TV shows, including Beavis and 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, Ernest goes to Broadway, Ernest Goes Straight to Video, and Ernest Goes Somewhere Cheap. In the Beavis and Butt-Head 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. Other shows that have referenced the Ernest movies include ALF, Saved by the Bell, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Kenan and kel The Nanny, How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory and many others.

Commercials on home video

Most of Ernest's commercials were released on VHS tapes from Disney's 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.[15]


  1. "Jim Varney; Comedic Actor Played Rube Ernest P. Worrell in Commercials, Movies". Los Angeles Times. 2000-02-11. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
  2. "Ernest P. Gets Rich With Vern". Sun Sentinel. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
  3. "Biography for Ernest P. Worrell". IMDB. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  4. Worrell, Ernest (1985). Hey, Vern! it's the Ernest P. Worrell Book of Knowledge. Carden & Cherry Advertising Agency. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  5. 1 2 Kalafut, Kathy (1990-04-13). "Hey Vern, I'm a star". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
  6. "Ernest in 'Quite the Little Shopper'". YouTube. 2007-11-14. Retrieved 2013-09-01.
  7. "Taco John's Ad with Jim Varney as Ernest". YouTube. 2010-04-05. Retrieved 2013-09-01.
  8. "Actor Jim "Ernest" Varney dies at 50". Salon. Archived from the original on 2009-06-15. Retrieved 2009-06-15.
  9. Keel, Beverly. "The Importance of Being Ernest". Weekly Wire. Nashville Scene. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  10. Willman, Chris (1993-11-16). "Actor Varney Comfortable as Ernest". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
  11. Dubois, Stephanie (1989-07-08). "Jim Varney Hopes Cards And Letters Keep Pouring In To Save Poor Ernest". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
  12. 1 2 3 4 Armstrong, Josh (2011-10-24). "Hey Vern, It's Ernest collaborator Coke Sams!". Archived from the original on 2011-11-30.
  13. "Biography for Jim Varney". Archived from the original on 2003-10-09.
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 "Ernest Moviesat the Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2013-09-01.
  15. Anderton (2012-10-12). "Son of Ernest to serve as reboot of long running comedy series".

External links

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