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Jim Varney (June 15, 1949 – February 10, 2000) was an American actor, stand-up comedian, musician, voice-over artist, and writer. He was best known for his role as Earnest P. Worrell, a character he portrayed in numerous commercials, television shows, and films.
Varney was born James Albert Varney, Jr. in Lexington, Kentucky on June 15, 1949. He displayed considerable talent from a young age, first reciting long poems and passages from books for family and friends and later imitating cartoon characters that he saw on television. He regularly competed in drama competitions while attending Lafayette High School, and by the age of 17 he was appearing on stage in clubs and local coffee houses. By the time he was 24 he was regularly appearing on stage at the Pioneer Playhouse located in Danville, Kentucky.
Varney debuted his Earnest character in a series of commercials that began in 1980. “Earnest” was franchised to companies all over the country, often by dairies to advertise milk products. He later branched out and became the spokesman for natural gas utilities in New Orleans and car dealerships around the country.
The Earnest character proved to be so popular that Varney began portraying him in films such as “Earnest Saves Christmas,” Earnest Goes to Camp,” “Earnest Scared Stupid,” and “Earnest Rides Again.” Varney later starred in the children’s show “Hey Vern, It’s Earnest!” for which he won a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Performer in a Children’s Series in 1988.