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Jim Varney
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Jim Varney

The late Jim Varney began entertaining at a young age because his remarkable ability to memorize poems and entire passages from books delighted his family. It was not a surprise when just prior to graduating high school, Varney was offered an acting apprenticeship by the prestigious Barter Theater, a nationally acclaimed professional company whose former players included Helen Hayes, the Barrymores and Gregory Peck (though he did later earn his G.E.D). At age 18 he left for New York City to seek fame and fortune, and spent time performing stand-up comedy at clubs and playing a variety of featured roles in dinner theater productions.

In the early 1970s, he auditioned for a local commercial and won the part of Sgt. Glory, a character created by the Nashville-based Carden & Cherry Advertising Agency. The series of commercials that followed proved to be extraordinarily popular and ran for almost five years in Tennessee. Varney continued to pitch spots and work the comedy club circuit. Then in 1980 he got another call from Carden & Cherry Advertising. This time they wanted him for a new character -- Ernest P. (for Powertool) Worrell. The public's response to this characterization was immediate and positive. Before long, Ernest became a pitchman for everything from dairy products, soft drinks and car dealerships.

His major motion picture breakthrough came in 1987 when he starred in Touchstone Pictures' Ernest Goes to Camp. He went on to star in the successful sequels, Ernest Saves Christmas, Ernest Goes to Jail, Ernest Scared Stupid, and others. Other film roles include the voice of Slinky Dog in Toy Story and Toy Story 2.

Varney also has an Emmy Award for his television series Hey Vern, It's Ernest! In 1992 the Tennessee State Senate honored Varney for his outstanding contributions to the State, particularly to children's charities. In 1993, he played Jed Clampett in Fox' production of The Beverly Hillbillies.

Varney died in 2000 of lung cancer on his farm in Tennessee. His last roles were for Atlantis: The Lost Empire and for Miramax Films' Daddy and Them.

Note: This profile was written in or before 2000.

Jim Varney Facts

Birth Name James Albert Varney Jr.
BirthdayJune 15, 1949
BirthplaceLexington, Kentucky, USA
Date of deathFebruary 10, 2000 (age 50)
Height6' 1" (1m85)  How tall is Jim Varney compared to you?

Selected Filmography

Not available.