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From The Kentucky Encyclopedia -
James Varney, comedian and actor, is a native of Lexington, Kentucky, born there probably in 1949, the son of James A. and Nancy Elizabeth (Howard) Varney. Varney became a performer at Lexington Children's Theatre at the age of eight. He made his professional debut at age sixteen as Puck in a University of Kentucky summer theater production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Varney also performed in several productions by Studio Players of Lexington. While attending Lexington's Lafayette High School, he won the best actor award twice in the state high school drama festival. He left high school two weeks before graduation for an acting apprenticeship with the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia, but later earned a high school equivalency certificate. He worked in comedy clubs and dinner theaters and had roles in the television series " Operation Petticoat," " Pink Lady and Jeff," and " The Rousters."
In 1980 Varney filmed his first commercial as Ernest P. Worrell, a character known for his one-sided conversations with his unseen, long-suffering pal Vern. His "Hey Vern! Know what I mean?" became a familiar phrase. Over much of the next decade, Varney filmed more than 2,500 commercials for a variety of products and companies. He played the role of Ernest in feature films, including Dr. Otto and the Riddle of the Gloom Beam, Ernest Goes to Camp, and Ernest Saves Christmas, and in a live-action Saturday morning show for children. "Ernest's" popularity created an international fan club of 22,000 members by 1988, an Ernest newsletter, and Ernest merchandise. The Ernest P. Worrell Book of Knowledge was published in 1985 by Carden & Cherry Advertising Agency, Inc. of Nashville, the agency that originated the Worrell character in collaboration with Varney. Varney married his second wife, Janie Hale, in June 1988.
He died on February 10, 2000 in his home in White House, Tennessee, a suburb of Nashville, at the age of 50. He was buried in Lexington Cemetery in Lexington, Kentucky
Hanks, Allen, Rickles, Varney, Shawn, Ratzenberger, Potts, Morris, Von Detten, Metcalf, Ermey, Freeman, Jillette, Newman, Lasseter, Whedon, Stanton, Cohen, Sokolow, Docter, Ranft, Hanks, Tom, Allen, Tim, Rickles, Don, Varney, Jim, Shawn, Wallace, Ratzenberger, John, Potts, Annie, Morris, John, Metcalf, Laurie, Ermey, Lee, Freeman, Sarah, Jillette, Penn, Newman, Randy, Lasseter, John, Whedon, Joss, Stanton, Andrew, Cohen, Joel, Sokolow, Alec, Docter, Pete, Ranft, Joe, Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar, and Buena Vista Home Video. Toy Story. Burbank, Calif.: Walt Disney Home Video : Distributed by Buena Vista Home Video, 1996.
AV-V9397, Young Media Library
Biography.com (Biography Channel)