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A fictional character created and portrayed by the late Jim Varney, originally for use in television commercials. Ernest was a dim-witted but good-natured Southern man who would address his "ol' buddy" Vern (from whose POV the commercials were seen) and deliver a soliloquy on the product. Ernest advertised just about everything from milk to soft drinks to amusement parks to regional stores.
The Ernest character first appeared on film in 1983 through the direct-to-video release Knowhutimean? Hey, Vern, It's My Family Album. A series of five theatrical releases followed between 1987 and 1993, with four more direct-to-video films after that. Varney died in 2000, but the character was briefly revived in CGI form for other commercials.
- Ernest Goes to Camp (1987)
- Ernest Saves Christmas (1988)
- Ernest Goes to Jail (1990)
- Ernest Scared Stupid (1991)
- Ernest Rides Again (1993)
- Ernest Goes to School (1994)
- Slam Dunk Ernest (1995)
- Ernest Goes to Africa (1997)
- Ernest in the Army (1998)
Ernest TV Series:
- Hey Vern, It's Ernest! (1988) CBS, 13 episodes. Jim Varney won an Emmy for his performance on this Saturday Morning Kids Show, but it's all but completely forgotten today. Despite this relative obscurity, it will be getting a complete series DVD release in 2011.
- Catch Phrase: Knowhutimean?
- Hey, Vern!
- Chewing the Scenery: Ernest loved making weird facial expressions into the camera.
- Done literally in Jail where he chews on an ink pen so much the ink leaks into his mouth.
- Classically-Trained Extra: Jim Varney was an acclaimed Shakespearean stage actor before creating the character of Ernest.
- Creepy Doll: When Toy Story came out, Disney Adventures interviewed Varney (he played Slinky Dog). When asked if he ever had nightmares about toys, he said: "Never...until they made the Ernest doll. It's eerie to have a doll that looks like you. I have one at my house...I keep him tied up." Admittedly, the doll is not easy on the eyes: http://philadelphia.craigslist.org/clt/2697333813.html
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: In the movies. As big of a dope as he is, Ernest is surprisingly capable of being an effective - while still dopey - hero.
- Deep South: Where Ernest is apparently from. (Jim Varney himself was a native Kentuckian.)
- Fish Eye Lens: Used to make Ernest look all the more obnoxious.
- The Ghost: Vern.
- Hyperspace Wardrobe: A recurring feature, mostly in the films.
- Iron Butt Monkey: Ernest wrote the book on this. At least once a movie he endures some ridiculous accident that would kill any living human. In Ernest Rides Again he acknowledges this by saying that he's "This close to being an actual cartoon."
- Negative Continuity: Every movie finds Ernest in a new place, with a new job and new friends, and no one acknowledges the (remarkable) events of Ernest's past.
- Nice Hat: Ernest always wore a baseball cap in the ads.
- POV Cam: The commercials were shot from Vern's POV. Sometimes this was used in the films as well.
- Shout-Out: To Andy Griffith Show character Ernest T. Bass (similar names and wardrobes).
- Show Within a Show: On Hey Vern, It's Ernest!, several of the recurring skits involved fictional television shows from Ernest's world.
- Smart People Play Chess: On Hey Vern, It's Ernest, Ernest, who is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, ends up playing Chess... like it was Checkers.
- Those Two Guys: Big Guy, Little Guy Tom and Bobby in movies with both of them.
- Why Do You Keep Changing Jobs?: Chuck (Gailard Sartain) and especially Bobby (Bill Byrge). But even Ernest fits this description, having been a camp maintenance man, a camp counselor, a taxi driver, a bank clerk, a garbage man, the King of England (for several seconds), a basketball player, a golf-ball collector at a country club, and five or six varieties of janitor.