Decades before the existence of "viral videos" on the internet, Jim Varney served as the "original viral star" as highlighted in a new video from the YouTube channel Hats Off Entertainment. The video serves as a part of the channel's new "Talent in the Form of a Craft" series, joining Charlie and the Chocolate Factory star Gene Wilder whose work was explored in a video released last month. As one of the most legendary and beloved comedians of all time, it was only natural for the channel to delve into the career of Varney as well, giving a particular focus to how the man also known as Ernest set the stage for today's viral stars.
"Jim Varney - most commonly known for portraying Ernest P. Worrell in a series of films, commercials and shorts, was the world's first viral star," the YouTube channel notes in the video's description. It also reads: "His versatile characters and talent for mimicry is the stuff of legends. This video essay explores his amazing climb to success, going from a down on his luck stand-up comedian to a national sensation and pop-culture icon." You can check out the video in full below.
Before achieving worldwide fame, Varney worked as a stand-up comedian, specializing in character comedy. This led to the creation of the famous Ernest P. Worrell character, which would soon after become synonymous with Varney. Varney's Ernest first appeared in a 1980 commercial for a run-down amusement park near Bowling Green, Kentucky. Other companies noticed the amusing ad, and before long, Varney was appearing in a series of television commercials for various products, always uttering his catch phrase, "KnoWhutImean, Vern?" As Ernest grew in popularity, so did the ads featuring him, making Varney a pop culture icon in a short matter of time.
Of course, most of us know Varney best for appearing in the series of movies based on the character, beginning with 1987's Ernest Goes to Camp. In subsequent sequels, Varney would take Ernest to jail, school, Africa, and even enlist him in the Army. Ernest has also saved Christmas, played basketball, rode again, and was once "scared stupid" by goblins. We all have our personal favorites from the Ernest movie series, and we can also all agree that Varney was always great as the character - in addition to his other memorable TV and movie roles, such as The Beverly Hillbillies and the Toy Story series.
Sadly, Varney passed away from lung cancer in the year 2000, but his memory continues to shine brightly over two decades later. As the narrator in the YouTube video suggests, it would have been amazing to see what else Varney would have had to offer had he been able to continue to grow as an actor for the past twenty years. It would be especially awesome if Varney were still around to give us one more Ernest movie, but we'll always have the classics to forever remember him by. The Jim Varney video shown above comes to us from Hats Off Entertainment on YouTube.