Comedy legend Jim Varney would be celebrating his 72nd birthday today if he were still with us, and fans around the world are paying tribute to the late character actor. Best known for playing the pop culture phenomenon Ernest P. Worrell, Varney appeared in a variety of Ernest movies over the course of several years. He is also known for playing Jed Clampett in The Beverly Hillbillies movie adaptation and voicing Slinky Dog in the Toy Story movies, and fans of The Simpsons fondly remember him as Cooter the crooked carnie.

Sadly, Varney was just 50 years old when he passed away in 2000. More than two decades later, fans are still missing the one of a kind performer. In honor of the late actor's 72nd birthday, many fans have taken to social media to pay tribute. It goes to show just how much of an impact Varney had left on the world before leaving us so soon.

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"In honor of Jim Varney's birthday today I'll be watching Ernest Scared Stupid followed by Ernest Saves Christmas today," writes one fan who knows just how to celebrate.

"Happy Birthday Jim Varney," says someone else. "You were the light & happiness that sheltered me from the chaos that was my childhood. Cheers my friend on your special day! We may not be kinfolk but you have always been family to me, love ya bub!"

Another fan who attended the same school as Varney wrote, "Happy birthday Jim Varney! Perhaps the most famous graduate of my alma mater, Lafayette High School. You were friends with one of my babysitters and that gave me grade school street cred."

One tweet reads: "Happy birthday, Jim Varney! Happy birthday to man that has made generations of both children and adults laugh. Happy birthday to a soul who was beautiful both inside and out. June 15, 1949 -February 10, 2000."

Including a photo of Varney with an Ernest dummy from an old Chex commercial, another fan wrote, "Today is a special day for us Ernest fans because it's Jim Varney's birthday today. He would've been time sure does fly. Anyway I'm gonna have some partymix and celebrate after work and chat with a few friends...see ya then Vern, KnoWhutiMean."

And another tweet reads: "Happy birthday to the one and only Jim Varney! One of the greatest actors and comedians of all-time. Not to mention he's Ernest P. Worrell!! He was brought into this world June 15, 1949, but he left way too soon. We miss you, Jim. Happy birthday!"

Varney's 72nd birthday just so happens to arrive in the midst of a crowdfunding campaign for a documentary about his life and career. Called The Importance of Being Ernest. From Paganomation, the movie will include archival footage, cast and crew interviews, and never-before-seen material of Varney in and out of character. Less than two weeks remain on the crowdfunding campaign, but as of this writing, it has reached more than $40,000 towards its overall goal of $60,000.

Happy heavenly birthday to Jim Varney. To find out more about the documentary about his life, or to contribute to the crowdfunding campaign, you can visit the official page for The Importance of Being Ernest on Kickstarter.