This is Jim!

Hey Vern, It’s Jim Varney: A Zany Journey into the World of Ernest P. Worrell

Ladies and Gentlemen, fasten your seatbelts and prepare to plunge headfirst into the wacky, wild, and wonderfully whimsical world of “Hey Vern, It’s Ernest!” – the 1988 TV show that catapulted Jim Varney’s iconic character, Ernest P. Worrell, into the stratosphere of pop culture! This show wasn’t just a television program; it was a 30-minute carnival of chaos, a kaleidoscope of kookiness, and an unrelenting roller coaster of ridiculousness. So, let’s dive into the delightful details and celebrate the mad genius of Jim Varney and his unforgettable creation!

The Man, the Myth, the Legend: Jim Varney

Before we get to the show, we must first pay homage to the man behind the magic, the maestro of mirth himself, Jim Varney. Born in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1949, Varney was a comedic dynamo with a flair for creating unforgettable characters. His early career was peppered with stand-up gigs and TV commercials, but it was the character of Ernest P. Worrell – a bumbling, yet endearing everyman with a distinctive drawl – that made him a household name. With his catchphrase “KnowhutImean, Vern?” Varney created a direct, albeit one-sided, dialogue with the audience that became the cornerstone of his comedic empire.

The Genesis of “Hey Vern, It’s Ernest!”

“Hey Vern, It’s Ernest!” premiered in 1988, bringing Ernest P. Worrell from commercials to the living rooms of America in glorious, technicolor lunacy. The show was an explosion of sketches, parodies, and off-the-wall humor, all tied together by Varney’s inexhaustible energy and creativity. Produced by DIC Entertainment and directed by John R. Cherry III – the mastermind behind Ernest’s TV commercial origins – this show was a veritable smorgasbord of silliness.

The Cast of Characters: A Motley Crew of Hilarity

While Jim Varney was undoubtedly the star of the show, “Hey Vern, It’s Ernest!” featured an eclectic ensemble of characters and performers who added to the zany charm.

  1. Jim Varney as Ernest P. Worrell: The man of a thousand faces (and voices), Varney not only played Ernest but also donned multiple personas throughout the show, showcasing his incredible versatility.
  2. Gailard Sartain: Known for his roles on “Hee Haw,” Sartain appeared in various guises, contributing his own brand of humor and Southern charm.
  3. Bill Byrge: Often seen as Ernest’s foil, Byrge brought a deadpan comedic style that perfectly contrasted with Varney’s frenetic energy.
  4. Deborah Harmon: Adding a touch of femininity and wit, Harmon’s performances provided balance and wit to the otherwise male-dominated cast.
  5. Bruce Arntson: Another versatile actor, Arntson’s multiple character portrayals added layers of hilarity to the show’s sketches.

A Tour Through the Madcap World of “Hey Vern, It’s Ernest!”

The show’s structure was as unconventional as its content. Each episode was themed, taking viewers on a journey through subjects like food, hobbies, and outer space, all through the uniquely skewed perspective of Ernest and his world.

Episode Breakdown:
  1. “Food for Thought”:
    • Chef Ernest: Watch as Ernest concocts culinary catastrophes in the kitchen.
    • Dr. Otto: A recurring villain with a mechanical hand, adding a sci-fi twist to the culinary chaos.
  2. “Hey Vern, It’s Outer Space”:
    • Astronaut Ernest: Ernest takes to the stars in a space adventure that defies logic and gravity.
    • Alien Encounters: Featuring bizarre alien characters that only a mind like Varney’s could dream up.
  3. “Ernest’s Home Improvement”:
    • Handyman Ernest: Witness the mayhem as Ernest attempts home repairs with predictably disastrous results.
    • Hobby Time with Ernest: A segment where Ernest explores various hobbies, often ending in uproarious failure.
Memorable Sketches and Segments:
  • “Lonnie Don’s School of Hollywood Sound Effects”: A segment where Ernest’s alter ego, Lonnie Don, teaches the audience about sound effects, often with hilarious and chaotic demonstrations.
  • “My Father, the Clown”: A parody segment featuring Ernest in various ridiculous fatherly roles, showcasing Varney’s talent for physical comedy.
  • “Willie and Auntie Nelda”: A sketch featuring Ernest’s alter ego Auntie Nelda, a cantankerous old lady with a sharp tongue and a soft heart.

Behind the Scenes: The Magic Makers

Creating the world of “Hey Vern, It’s Ernest!” was a collaborative effort involving a talented crew:

  • John R. Cherry III: The director and co-creator of Ernest, Cherry’s vision and direction were instrumental in shaping the show’s unique style.
  • Coke Sams: A frequent collaborator with Cherry, Sams’ writing and production work helped bring the zany scripts to life.
  • Tommy Coomes: The show’s composer, whose catchy and quirky musical compositions perfectly complemented the on-screen antics.

The Legacy of “Hey Vern, It’s Ernest!”

Though “Hey Vern, It’s Ernest!” lasted only one season, its impact on pop culture was profound. It cemented Jim Varney’s status as a comedy legend and left an indelible mark on a generation of viewers. The show’s blend of slapstick humor, clever wordplay, and Varney’s boundless charisma ensured its place in the pantheon of classic 1980s television.

Conclusion: The Enduring Charm of Ernest

In the grand tapestry of television history, “Hey Vern, It’s Ernest!” stands out as a vibrant, anarchic patchwork of hilarity and heart. Jim Varney’s genius as Ernest P. Worrell brought joy and laughter to millions, and his legacy lives on through reruns, DVDs, and the fond memories of fans worldwide. So, as we look back on the zaniness of “Hey Vern, It’s Ernest!” we tip our hats to Jim Varney – the man who made us laugh until we cried, and who reminded us that in the world of comedy, anything is possible. KnowhutImean?