James Albert Varney, Jr. was born on 15 June 1949, in Lexington, Kentucky USA, and was a writer, comedian and actor best known for his character Ernest P. Worrell, used for movies and commercials. He’s also known to have been the voice of Slinky Dog in the first two “Toy Story” movies. His various efforts helped raise his net worth to where it was prior to his passing in 2000.
How rich was Jim Varney? As of mid-2016, sources inform us of a net worth that is at $12 million, mostly earned through his numerous opportunities as an actor. Aside from commercials, film and television, he was also popular in the theatre. He’s also did voice-acting work, and all of these helped increase his wealth.
Jim Varney Net Worth $12 Million
At a young age, Jim’s mother noticed how he could easily memorize parts of a book and start re-enacting the cartoon characters he watched on television. This soon led him to an opportunity in theatre and he won numerous competitions while attending Lafayette High School. At the age of 17, Varney was already performing at various venues and later on he’d become an actor in numerous theatre productions such as “Blithe Spirit”, “Fire on the Mountain”, and “Boeing 707”, a solid start to his net worth.
Varney rose to prominence as the character Ernest Worrell during a commercial that advertised the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders in 1980. His character was suddenly used by various companies and produce such as milk and other dairy products. This led to him creating other characters such as Sgt. Glory, who was a drill instructor also used for commercials. More opportunities appeared including commercials for gas, convenience stores and car dealerships. This also led to more television shows for him such as “Pop! Goes the Country” alongside Tom T. Hall. Later on, Jim would create another character named Auntie Nelda, and would then reprise Ernest in various films, the result of the character’s popularity, including “Ernest Saves Christmas”, “Ernest Scared Stupid”, “Ernest Rides Again”, “Dr. Otto and the Riddle of the Gloom Beam”, and “Ernest Goes to Africa”. His commercials continued with clients such as Leadco and later Blake’s Lotaburger. Aside from films, his character Ernest also had a television series entitled “Hey Vern, It’s Ernest”, and the film “Ernest Goes to Camp” became a huge success. The various Ernest movies were compiled and made into VHS and DVD releases, considerably adding to his net worth.
Aside from his popularity as the character, Varney also had other shows and movies in which he portrayed other characters. These can be seen in “Johnny Cash and Friends”, “Fernwood 2 Night”, “Operation Petticoat” and “Pink Lady and Jeff”. He also became well known for portraying Jed Clampett in “The Beverly Hillbillies”. He continued doing movies and later would get voice opportunities in “Toy Story”, “Toy Story 2” and “Atlantis: The Lost Empire”. He even had an episode voicing for “The Simpsons”, and tried his hand at independent movies.
For his personal life, Jim was firstly married to Jacqueline Drew from 1977 to 1983, and then to Jane Varney from 1988 to 1991. During the filming of “Treehouse Hostage” in 1998, it was discovered that he had lung cancer because of his smoking habit. He quit smoking and later supported anti-smoking campaigns, and underwent chemotherapy, but it wasn’t successful and he died in February 2000. His final film “Atlantis: The Lost Empire”, was dedicated to him.
Varney himself sang the song "Gee I'm Glad It's Raining" for his movie "Ernest Goes To Camp" in a single take. When he finished performing it for the movie, reportedly there wasn't a single dry eye on set.
Shares his birthday with country singer Waylon Jennings who was one of his closest friends!.
Jim Varney was supposed to be in a movie called Pirates of the plain. Directed By John Cherry. But when got sick the lead went to Tim Curry instead. This somehow became a rumor that Jim was filming Ernest the pirate but died before it was finished.
Youngest child and only son of James Albert Varney Sr (1910-1985) and Louise Varney (1913-1994). He has three older sisters.
Varney was very good friends with actor Blake Clark and Clark took over the role of "Slinky Dog" in Toy Story 3 (2010), after Varney's death. In an interview for "Toy Story 3", Clark described Varney as a very good and kind man and one of his bestest friends.
Remained good friends with his second wife Jane after their divorce and she became his spokesperson later in life.
Along with Robin Williams, Varney was one of Los Angeles's Comedy Store's original alumni.
The character of Ernest was actually introduced in a commercial for Bowling Green, Kentucky's Beech Bend Raceway Park.
Between 1987 and 1990, Disney released four Ernest movies that generated a total of $100 million. Five more Ernest films were released independently, mainly for the video and television markets.
Among one of the companies he portrayed his beloved character, Earnest, was for the Kroger grocery store chain. These aired mainly in the marketing area of Tennessee, parts of Mississippi and Ohio where Kroger grocery store chains are predominate.
As Ernest, Jim Varney used to do Purity Dairy commercials which ran in Nashville, TN.
As his Ernest P. Worrell persona, he did advertisements for the Southern California auto mall Cerritos Auto Square. After his death, commercials now feature a CGI Ernest.
He used to do commercials for the Dodge dealership in Henderson, Kentucky, sitting in the Dodge Viper "high in the sky."
When he discovered he had lung cancer, he reportedly threw away his cigarettes and quit smoking cold turkey. Unfortunately, it was too late.
Despite his persona as Ernest P. Worrell, he reportedly had a near genius I.Q. level. He was said to be occasionally exasperated with fans who met him and assumed he was exactly like the Worrell character he portrayed.
Known to fans as Ernest P. Worrell, his most famous character, who propelled him to the public eye. Ernest appeared in commercials "alongside" his off-camera friend Vern. Ernest would address the camera as if it were Vern.
His final movie, "Ernest the Pirate" (2000) had nearly completed shooting at the time of his death. For that reason, it got canceled, and was never released on VHS, DVD, or as part of an "Ernest" box set on anything.
Lived in Lexington, Kentucky while growing up, and graduated from Lafayette Senior High School with the class of 1968. He listed a former teacher, Thelma Beeler, as being one of the main contributing factors in his becoming an actor.
Jim Varney died at about 4:45 am February 10, 2000 at his White House, Tennessee home.
Was a heavy smoker and died of lung cancer.
Included in a 1986 home video collection of Ernest commercials is a public service spot with Ernest trying to convince "Vern" to quit smoking, thus avoiding "The Big 'C'-Cancer. Chemotherapy City."
Known for his character Ernest P. Worrell.
[After being asked if he was a chain smoker] Nah, I'm not a chain smoker. they're real hard to light, and you have to carry that big torch around.
I'd like to do a piece of Shakespeare. Any upcoming Shakespeare film. Just a bit to say I did a classic.
I like to sing. I write music. Country songs. You have to if you're in Nashville. It's part of the lease. You sign a lease that says, I will write country songs and pay my rent on time.
I started to do a study on how not to do stand-up comedy. Yeah, it's lonely work. You die, you die alone. It's you, the light, and the audience. If you win, you win big. If you lose, you lose big time.
[On making Ernest Scared Stupid] I loved it. As a kid, anything that gave me nightmares I had to watch.
Life's just a bus stop to somewhere infinitely better.