Lost Signals: ‘Hey Vern, It’s Ernest!’ (1988)
When you’re 5 or 6 years old, there’s nothing funnier than to see an adult make a complete ass out of themselves. However, in some cases (if you watch them enough), that same adult can turn out to be pretty cool. Take Pee-Wee Herman for instance, who’s wide-eyed, childlike sense of imagination and enthusiasm during the 80s took me from the living room to the moon and back in under an hour. Likewise, advertising mascot turned cash machine Ernest P. Worrell (played by Jim Varney) provided kids with an elastic, rubberfaced brand of humor that just barely preceded Jim Carrey’s Ace Ventura when Hey Vern, It’s Ernest! hit the Saturday morning boob tube in 1988.
The series (which only lasted saw 13 episodes produced) centered around a collection of skits featuring Ernest, and his various wacky personas, introducing something new each week (magic, sports, space, etc) to his unseen “buddy” Vern. Aside from the eccentric collage-style opening (which I LOVE), Hey Vern, It’s Ernest! followed the Worrell formula of the films to a “t” with Ernest often getting into various sorts of trouble as a result of his curiosity (just like me!) with sprinklings of sketch comedy. In the episode featured here (Hey Vern, It’s Scary Things!) alone we get to see some personal favorites such as Chuck and Bobby discussing Halloween, the Dust Bunny, and perhaps my favorite Ernest persona: Dr. Otto!
Considering the fact that Varney was pretty much a solo act for much of the show, unlike MadTV or In Living Color, it’s not all that surprising that it ran out of steam after the first season. To have lasted that long at all, though, has to be a testament to Varney’s comedic sensibility (however juvenile) as well as his likability as Ernest and the show still offers a few chuckles even now (especially considering we could have ended up with this guy).
For those seeking more Ernest P. Worrell, Hey Vern, It’s Ernest The Complete Series has just been released! Check it out Amazon.com for more details.