"I take orders from the Octoboss."

Ernest Goes to School

June 10, 1994

I put ERNEST GOES TO SCHOOL on my schedule because it was on a list of June 1994 releases, but upon further research I realized they didn’t exactly attempt to mount a challenge to SPEED and CITY SLICKERS II. They only gave it a limited release in Connecticut (nickname: “The Ernest State”) before the rest of the country got it on video in December. So I could have very justifiably skipped reviewing it in this series. But never let it be said that I retreated from my search for knowledge. Ernest, going to school!? I mean, how is something like that gonna pan out? I had to know.

It occurs to me that I’ve never reviewed an Ernest P. Worrell movie before, so I’ve never had a chance to note that back in the Ain’t It Cool days some people thought my name was a reference to the off camera character Ernest was talking to in the commercials and TV series he did, or that it was funny to write “Know whut I mean, Vern?” in response to my reviews. Both were incorrect.

This one was the sixth Ernest motion picture, or seventh if you include DR. OTTO AND THE RIDDLE OF THE GLOOM BEAM (1985), where Jim Varney played several characters, including Ernest. There were three more after this, all DTV, and out of the whole series this is the only one not directed by John Cherry. Instead the honor goes to Coke Sams, writer of most of the Ernest works going back to the beginning.

Given the international readership here I’m sure some people will have no idea who Ernest is. And I’m not sure I know how to explain him. Varney and Cherry created the character for Cherry’s Nashville advertising agency, first using him in a commercial for a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders appearance at an amusement park in Kentucky. He ended up advertising all kinds of products, then having a Saturday morning TV show, then a series of broad PG-rated comedies. He’s sort of a low class southern stereotype, a guy who’s supposed to be very dumb but also will jibber jabber about arcane knowledge. He’s oblivious about how much he annoys people and in the movies bumbles through various slapstick catastrophes.

In this one Ernest is the janitor/handyman at a high school that the school board wants to shut down, and as a dirty trick they make a new rule that everyone on staff must have a diploma. Now Ernest must finish his senior year of high school or lose his job, which he says is “my life, my career, my spiritual fulfillment.” So he’s given a locker and a class schedule and gets into various antics, gags, humor, you name it. Anything could happen.

I have to admit when I realized the premise of the movie I perked up at its potential for absurdity or even transgressiveness. Here is a clueless adult man in a movie about finishing high school, it could be really funny to put him in common teen movie tropes. Yeah, getting a date for the prom would be inappropriate, but this was only 6 years after PLAIN CLOTHES, a more serious movie where an adult undercover cop leads different girls on before making it with a teacher. Even if they didn’t go there it could be really funny to watch Ernest try to fit in, eventually impress the popular crowd, but realize he’s leaving behind his nerd friends, that kind of stuff.

They don’t really do that, but it is kind of funny how two dipshit football players played by Russell Porter (Menahem Golan’s HANNA’S WAR) and one William Sasso (SKI SCHOOL 2) hate Ernest and constantly bully him and giggle at him. He’s actually more into football than them and always talks about his high school sports career, but they think he’s a weirdo so they pick on him. Meanwhile, there are a couple of nerdy kids who make sympathetic expressions when people are cruel to him, and one who befriends him in band class, where he has a crush on the teacher, Miss Flugal (Corrine Koslo, SWITCHING CHANNELS).

In the cartoonish world of Ernest, wrestling in gym class is the same as pro wrestling, with a ring and everything. For some reason the gym teacher hates Ernest and wants to have him brutally assaulted (I guess all jocks hate Ernest?) and makes him fight a ringer in class, but Ernest tries to warn about his “extensive experience in the WWF” and something about the Hulkster and Ultimate Warrior in Wrestlemania. It doesn’t seem in character for him to make up a story like that so I assumed it was referring to some wacky Wrestlemania event Ernest fans would’ve known about at the time, but after some quick research I don’t think that’s the case. I did however learn that four years later there was a script written for a RASSLIN’ ERNEST that they tried to interest the WWF in sponsoring.

After some of those sorts of shenanigans we’re led into the main gimmick of the movie by Gerta (Linda Kash, a regular for both Ernest and Christopher Guest movies), a science teacher who combines an exaggerated German accent with at least two different speech impediments. She beckons Ernest from a secret entrance inside his locker to a mad science lab where she uses an experimental “subatomic brain accelerator” to supercharge his mind. (This is depicted with some imagery that made me think for a second it was gonna go into JOHNNY MNEMONIC territory, but not quite.) I like the line where she jokes he’ll be able to rewrite the theory of relativity and he says, “Well, if you think it really needs it.”

So the main gimmick of the movie is that he can temporarily turn smart each time he gets a jolt. “Smart” Ernest of course is a total snob, puts on a phony upper crust accent, appreciates fine art, also wears glasses and a tie (but under a corduroy vest to stay true to his redneck heritage). He’s good at trumpet and takes over teaching the band to play John Phillips Sousa joints for the big game.

I have very little Ernest experience. I do remember that I saw ERNEST GOES TO CAMP in the theater and liked it, but then I became a teenager and never saw another one until now. I feel like I sort of get the appeal because he seems related to this particular type of character-based comedy movie I’ve always gravitated to, mostly sketch comedy people who get a chance to make a movie and do it as kind of a skewed, campy, live action cartoon. Of course you’ve got Pee-wee Herman way up at the top, CABIN BOY on a tier below him, maybe STRANGE BREW, UHF and the Elvira movies somewhere below that. Even in this pretty shoddy barely released one there’s sort of a DIY, hand-made-by-hobbyists quality to the props like his Supreme-o-vac invention or the machines in the lab. I don’t like this one, it’s very stupid and mostly unfunny to me, but at least it’s made with detectable traces of love and care.

For example, in this type of movie they sometimes go off on random tangents of reality just for fun, so in this one he suddenly imagines the school as a western town with tumbleweeds blowing down the halls, and a shadowy Clint-Eastwood-soundalike (David Keith, FIRESTARTER, WHITE OF THE EYE) rides up on a horse and talks to him. I mean, it’s not funny, but it’s effort they were not expected to expend.

And also I can imagine that when I was really little I would’ve gotten a kick out of the long slapstick sequence where he’s trying to fix a pipe and getting sprayed and moving toilets around and stuff. Even moreso if there had been poop involved, but I think we can all now face the fact that toilets alone are funny at that age.

One very dumb thing that was kind of funny to me even as an adult is how when he has a machine that’s out of control and smashes it to bits but there’s still a small piece making noise he considers what to do and decides on putting it in his mouth. I can’t explain it, I don’t know what he’s thinking, I just like it. (He does it twice in this so it may be one of his trademarks, I have no idea.)

Art director Helen Jarvis started on ERNEST RIDES AGAIN, and this was her second movie. Since her stint with Ernest she has also worked with John McTiernan (THE 13TH WARRIOR), John Frankenheimer (REINDEER GAMES, ROLLERBALL), Alex Proyas (I, ROBOT), Zack Snyder (WATCHMEN) and Professor Xavier (X2 and X3).

It would be pretty great if some future Oscar winner or something played one of the students, but we’ll have to settle for a couple familiar faces. Will Sasso, who played one of the jock assholes, was later on Mad TV and people used to always email me about him doing a Seagal imitation on there. I enjoyed him as Curly in THE THREE STOOGES. Also Sarah Chalke plays a nice girl in band class named Maisy, and she had recently taken over the part of Becky on Roseanne when this came out. So I guess it was a reunion when a few years later Varney had a recurring role as Jackie’s boyfriend Prince Carlos on the weird (almost) final season of the show that turned out to be fictional short stories Roseanne wrote after Dan died of a heart attack. (I guess that in itself was retconned, I didn’t see the new season.)

Varney followed ERNEST GOES TO SCHOOL by playing “Snake” in Jeff Speakman’s THE EXPERT, which I assume was what got him taken seriously enough to snag the role of Slinky Dog in TOY STORY.

You know what else would’ve been cool would be if after Ernest goes back to school it just turns into a totally straight inspirational teacher movie like DANGEROUS MINDS only with Ernest as one of the students. He’s just one subplot so you keep getting involved in the teacher’s challenges and forget it’s an Ernest movie until he shows up again. Or if it was ERNEST GETS A G.E.D. and he has to take classes in the city and maybe it turns into a dark thriller where he’s stalked by a serial killer, like NIGHT SCHOOL. Hey Ernest people hit me up if you ever have a time machine and want to do more of these. I’m full of ideas.

Summer ’94 connections: ERNEST GOES TO SCHOOL is almost as cheesy as 3 NINJAS KICK BACK, and sure enough Varney later played a villain in 3 NINJAS: HIGH NOON AT MEGA MOUNTAIN.

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39 Responses to “Ernest Goes to School”

  1. My daughter was recently accepted to UCLA and as we were looking around for scholarship opportunities at the school, I was surprised to see that there was a full-ride Jim Varney scholarship for students from Kentucky and Tennessee (

    ). Unfortunately, we don’t live in either state, so we could not apply, but it does seem that perhaps his work in this film did inspire him to move down a Dangerous Minds path of lifting up the next generation of Southern youth.

  2. My daughter was recently accepted to UCLA and as we were looking around for scholarship opportunities at the school, I was surprised to see that there was a full-ride Jim Varney scholarship for students from Kentucky and Tennessee. Unfortunately, we don’t live in either state, so we could not apply, but it does seem that perhaps his work in this film did inspire him to move down a Dangerous Minds path of lifting up the next generation of Southern youth.

  3. I actually know Ernest, although his movies are still pretty obscure here. But ERNEST SAVES CHRISTMAS was quite regularly on TV in the early 90s every Christmas and honestly, I think it’s damn good. Then later on ERNEST GOES TO CAMP ran on TV and I was really surprised that they made another one. And then some more movies popped up, but I don’t think any of them were shown here in the last 15 years or longer.

    Now I haven’t seen all of them. Like this one here. ERNEST SCARED STUPID is the one that I really wanna track down, because it keeps popping up on “traumatizing kids movies” lists (It even has a 16 rating in Germany!) and the Chiodo Brothers did the FX. And I do have to say, not all entries of the ERNEST saga were equally good. You know I love silly slapstick comedies. Hell, I’m probably the only POLICE ACADEMY fan on this websight! But especially some of the cheaper DTV entries tested my patience.

    It is too bad that Jim Varney passed away a while ago. Even more so because when you hear friends talk about him, he seemed to be one hell of a nice guy and while he wasn’t ashamed of being Ernest, he was really happy to slowly move into character actor territory, which of course was cut short by his cigarette-caused death.

    BTW, anybody remembers when the IMDb trivia section of every ERNEST flick had an entry that said “Together with Pee-Wee Herman and Mr Bean, Ernest P. Worrell is considered one of the greatest child entertainers of all time”? I hate how little quality control that part of IMDb has, but for some reason it made me laugh whenever I read it.

  4. Oh, also a few years ago I watched a few episodes of HEY VERN, IT’S ERNEST on YouTube. It was some kind of sketch show for kids and pretty much what I believe an acid trip must feel like.

  5. Sad there wasn’t “Jim Varney (DUCKMAN: PRIVATE DICK/FAMILY MAN)” in this review. That joint was star packed. Burt Reynolds!! Joe Mantegna!! Bob Guccioni!! Ice-T!! Judith Light!!

  6. I aged out of Ernest movies after GOES TO CAMP, and even then I felt like I was a little too mature for that kind of thing. I’d seen ROBOCOP by that point. Childhood was over.

    That said, if you’re looking for a song to play at my funeral, this wouldn’t be a bad choice.


  7. I still have a broken heart over 1993.
    We were 9, and it was June, I think. And every kid at school was psyched for the big new movie that weekend, “Jurassic Park”. For me, and for a lot of my classmates, it changed our lives.
    That Monday, we returned to school, everyone abuzz over the movie. Did you see this part, do you remember that part, etc.
    Except for one good friend. He came back that Monday and was like, “Guys, I saw a movie this weekend you wouldn’t believe.”
    We were like, “Yeah, we all saw Jurassic Park.”
    “No, guys,” he said. “My father drove me all the way upstate to see ERNEST RIDES AGAIN.”
    And for that whole day, we just talked about Jurassic Park, except my friend (who seemed oblivious that any other movie had come out that weekend) who kept interrupting conversations to tell us his favorite parts of ERNEST RIDES AGAIN. I won’t lie, I was a shitty friend, so I was trying to give off vibes of, “Stop talking, dude, you’re embarrassing us.” But he kept on going. And, to be honest, as a little kid, it hurt him socially! I still think about that, and I kinda feel bad about the whole thing.
    But what Dad sees that Jurassic Park is coming out (everywhere, really), and still drives his nine year old kid UPSTATE (guaranteed at least an hour) to see ERNEST RIDES AGAIN?

  8. Ernest falls into a weird part of pop culture for me that I rekon some other non Americans are familiar with, where you hear about something referenced so much in American pop culture you do get but never see the actual thing so you grow up not sure if it’s actually real or some weird in joke? Like Ernest got mentioned all the time in the Simpsons or Mad Magazine but my only exposure to it was from like second hand jokes about it’s existence. So, especially pre internet I had to piece together what the fuck Ernest actually was from jokes about it.

    It becomes esspecialy confusing with shit like the simpsons where so many brands and media in universe are fictional like Krusty the Clown and Itchy and Scratchy so if you haven’t heard about it directly you have no idea if it’s real or not.
    (I also thought Circle K from Bill and Ted was a fake store like a Kwiki Mart till I was like 30)

  9. I’ll go to bat for Ernest. I think his movies A. are family-friendly B. have enough dumb humor for the immature dipshit in all of us C. aren’t trying super-hard to impart a lesson or be melancholy to impress the adults watching. They’re just stupid fun and I think kids deserve that as much as anyone.

    If you’re an adult and you prefer to watch, I don’t know, The Bear to get your laughs, that’s fine, but sometimes you need something that’s appropriate for a six-year-old and isn’t too grueling for you.

  10. Huh, I’m pretty sure I’ve watched that Speakman joint (I certainly had it on DVD for a time, I think it was a double-disc or double sided disc with Billy Banks in EXPECT NO MERCY) but I don’t remember Varney being in it.

    I think Ernest is relatively well known in the UK, at least among people of a certain age who watched a lot of TV growing up, although I doubt we ever got the commercials or the TV series. Several of the Ernest movies were on the UK Disney Channel *a lot* in their early years (I remember catching bits of GOES TO SCHOOL on there), not that most people would have noticed. More accessibly they used to be aired on terrestrial TV quite a bit during the School Holidays; for the most part the UK never got the “censored for TV” versions of movies (the TV stations would apply their own cuts, but the “melon farmer” edits rarely made their way over here), which mostly limited films that could be aired on UK TV in the daytime to films made before 1968 and movies that got PG or U certificates, so the Ernest films got quite a bit of play. I don’t know if they got full Cinema releases, or all have been released on DVD here, or even VHS, but TV play, yes.

    I never saw this (or most of them) in full, and I don’t remember liking GOES TO CAMP very much, but I do remember watching GOES TO JAIL which had a bit of a reputation as “the good one” (2/4 from Maltin! 3/5 in the Radio Times!) and quite enjoying it.

  11. Kaplan, fair enough. If a kids movie works for kids, I won’t be able to hate it too much myself. Sadly as an adult you can see how the Ernest movies seem to get cheaper and cheaper and start to feel a bit more phoned in.

    RE: Them being referenced on THE SIMPSONS, in an audio commentary they mention that they did it because it was so easy to use them as a joke, which gave us such I-wish-they-were-real fake movie titles like ERNEST GOES SOMEWHERE CHEAP and ERNEST NEEDS A KIDNEY.

  12. Thank you guys for discussing how Ernest is understood in the UK and Europe. Now I’m going to do somewhat the opposite.

    I’m a fan of the 1980s BBC comedy series The Young Ones, costarring Rik Mayall as angry lefty college student Rick. A major running gag is that this character is an obsessive fan of the British rock musician Cliff Richard.

    As an American, I have only heard of Cliff Richard because of this show, so he is to me what Ernest is to some of you.

    I’ve done enough research to figure out that Richard was one of the first British rock stars, that he’s had a very long career, and that he went Christian at some point.

    So I know that much, but I feel like I still don’t quite get what the significance is of having this angry militant character be a Cliff Richard fan. Is the joke that Richard is really corny and lame, and therefore Rick is silly and phony for liking him? Is the joke that Richard is very popular, and therefore Rick is shallow and not-so-rebellious for liking him? Or does Richard simply represent an old-fashioned wholesomeness that the show’s punk ethos as a whole is subverting (the same way US pop culture sometimes makes ironic use of 1950s suburban imagery)?

    The people who conceived and wrote that show were very committed to whatever this running joke is, since the show gets its title and theme song from a Cliff Richard song and the final episode is “Summer Holiday” (which I think is another Richard song) and the characters accidentally drive through a Cliff Richard billboard at the end. But I feel like the joke relies on a British audience’s inherent understanding of the meaning(s?) of Richard’s music and career. Could any of you kind folks from the UK please clarify the joke for this enthusiastic but uninformed American? Thank you.

  13. SCARED STUPID was my Ernest of choice back in the day, though I haven’t seen it in decades. Mostly I remember the freaky Chiodo troll(s).

    Apparently on the same day Vern posted this review, an Ernest graphic novel was announced. I would prefer they let it die with Varney.

  14. Curt, it may be a generational thing, but I’m in the UK (still in Europe, despite what some want to believe) and have only the vaguest awareness of Varney and Ernest. I couldn’t have told you Varney worked on TOY STORY.

    However, I may be able to help you with your Cliff Richard query. I think the joke is intended to be that Cliff is lame and Rik is betraying himself as silly and uncool in liking him: in one episode Cliff asks the band Madness if they know Summer Holiday by Cliff Richard, to which Suggs replies “You hum it… and I’ll smash your face in.” But I also think the joke comes from a place of affection and appreciation. The Cliff the original audience of The Young Ones would have known would be the smiling christian of 70s light entertainment shows on BBC1, but there’s an earlier pre-christian Cliff who recorded Move It, which John Lennon called the first British rock song, and which is arguably the first rock song recorded by anyone outside America. The double decker bus in the final episode of The Young Ones is a direct reference to SUMMER HOLIDAY, Cliff’s hit movie directed by Peter Yates in his pre-US career. And Cliff also had hit movies directed by Sidney J. Furie, including THE YOUNG ONES. Honestly, the films are of their time, but it’s definitely a cool part of his career, and Move It really is a great song. I think he’s had a perfectly happy late career playing to mum’s and grannies, but it might be fun to see what Rick Rubin could do for him.

  15. Ernest had genuine flashes of brilliance. Meet cousin Billy Boogie Worrell. He’s oughta sight.

  16. I have to say I prefer his other cousin Bernie.

  17. ERNEST GOES TO JAIL is for sure the peak of the series. It’s also a wonderful showcase for Varney’s not-inconsequential acting skills.

    AND it has Randall “Tex” Cobb, to boot.

    But I’ll never forget a moment in ERNEST GOES TO AFRICA -not good, otherwise- wherein Ernest is captured by the evil poachers and is just jabbering away about nothing, as Ernest is wont to do. And the head poacher turns to his henchman and says “Make him talk”. No joke, me and Uncle John lost it for about 5 straight minutes on that one. Perfect delivery, framing, everything.

  18. My radar has been known to be off on these things, but I generally feel the Cliff Richard jokes in The Young One weren’t necessarily much of a comment on him, it was more that he was just about the safest, most establishment and light entertainment pop star imaginable (and the most mainstream; I believe he’s still our biggest artist ever in terms of domestic singles sales), even when he was “rock” honestly, and therefore the single most bathetic artist for a self-proclaimed revolutionary to be so enthusiastic about. As you probably know the running joke climaxed in that most prized of traditions, a novelty record for charity in which The Young Ones sang with Cliff (and Hank Marvin) so it doesn’t seem like either side took it that seriously. (For what it’s worth though, Mayall cited another Richard, Little Richard, as one of his heroes and biggest influences)

    I guess the easiest US comparison to make to Cliff would be, dare I suggest!, not Ernest but Pat Boone. It’s not a perfect analogy (Cliff isn’t really known for political views per say, and Pat Boone wasn’t still having hits in the 90s), but it never will be when you’re comparing UK/US.

    10-12 years after Rik a comedian called Simon Munnery had some success on a much smaller scale with a somewhat similar character called Alan Parker: Urban Warrior. His muse was Sham 69; unlike Cliff they, a punk band, did have some countercultural bona fides, but were also a bit of a joke who alternated earnest sloganeering with borderline novelty songs, both baffling critics with their high chart placings. That was more of a clear cut (though perhaps not completely unaffectionate) “this guy worships something terrible” characterisation in my opinion.

    Talk of Cliff and The Young Ones teaming up reminds me that eventually Jim Varney did get a guest spot on THE SIMPSONS so their derisive attitude towards the Ernest joints also doesn’t seem to have been too deeply felt either way.

  19. BTW, my favourite Ernest fact is maybe that he was created out of necessity. When the advertising agency of its creators was hired to promote a small amusement park, they realized that the thing was so crappy that they decided to not show anything and instead just have a character talk about it. The rest is history.

  20. This conversation has got me wondering who “Rik” might have hero worshipped in OH NO! NOT THEM! the semi-infamous US remake of THE YOUNG ONES that never got beyond the pilot stage. I say semi-infamous because, unlike the two RED DWARF US pilots, nothing beyond the title sequence has ever leaked, said sequence being set to a cover of Tomorrow Never Knows, which already feels like things going askew. Nigel Planner reprised his Neil role, and was reportedly quite glad when it didn’t take off so he didn’t have to move to the US. Jackie Earle Haley was in it too, apparently.

    Anyway, here’s an old clip about the early days of Ernestmania intercut with clips of Varney performing HAMLET

  21. I say this as a fan, but…Bob Seger?

  22. I love these summer series.

    Man, I hope you review Barcelona.

    Keep up the good work.

  23. I do believe that there is no way anymore for Vern (Our Vern, not Ernest’s) to back out of an ERNEST SCARED STUPID review for October.

  24. I unironically love the Ernest films, although mainly just the four Jim Varney made for Touchstone.
    The DTV entries all have their moments, but they also represent a huge drop-off in quality (and budget).

    My favorite is Ernest Saves Christmas, which is a genuinely good holiday flick. Its success led to a larger budget for Ernest Goes To Jail, which in turn allowed Varney to fully unleash his creativity. The end result often feels as though you’re watching a live-action cartoon.

    Aside from having arguably the best title of the bunch, Ernest Scared Stupid is a surprisingly spooky little film. It starts out focusing a little too much on Varney’s kid co-stars but then takes an unexpected swerve when it begins turning them one by one into little wooden dolls. The atmosphere is much better than it has any right to be and Eartha Kitt is a highlight as Old Lady Hackmore. (What a great freaking name!)

  25. Mr. Majestyk; Seger is an interesting suggestion…part of me wonders if he was uncool enough in 1990, in the mainstream, for it to track, but apparently it was going to be a FOX show and they didn’t seem to mind stepping on a few toes at that time. I guess Neil Diamond or Barry Manilow would be the most obvious choices in 1990 (Diamond kind of eventually happened in SAVING SILVERMAN), or a disco artist, maybe the Bee Gees despite them not being American.

  26. I went with Seger because it seemed like you would need someone who might have been considered cool at one point but then degenerated into soppy Adult Contemporary balladry. Diamond and Manilow (both of whom I like to varying degrees, with Diamond being the clear superior) were, to my knowledge, never considered cool, so I eliminated them. But maybe I’m misunderstanding the Cliff Richard situation and either of them would be the better choice. In that case, I’d go with Manilow. Diamond was reevaluated in the aughts and had a Johnny Cash-style stripped-down comeback, whereas Manilow remains pure kitsch. I think you could like Diamond and maintain your punk cred, but not Manilow.

  27. grimgrinningchris

    June 16th, 2024 at 8:40 am

    I’ve somehow never seen a single Ernest movie. Though as a kid, when he was just doing commercials, I was an official member of the Ernest fanclub. I had a button, an ID card signifying me as such, got monthly newsletters and an Ernest “mask” on a popcicle stick.

  28. It seems like the simplest solution for the high school would have been to hire a different custodian with a high school diploma, but I guess there wouldn’t have been much of a movie if they had gone that route. Maybe have Ernest stand to inherit a fortune if he receives his diploma (with honors), then have him save the school with his newfound wealth. He could even establish a college scholarship which he awards to the one student who never stopped believing in him. Then the superintendent falls into the orchestra pit and gets his butt stuck inside a tuba or something. But who am I to question the Masters?

  29. I stumbled upon this pretty interesting (to me anyway) interview with Coke Sams, he does touch briefly on directing GOES TO SCHOOL but it’s mostly about wider Ernestmania.

    I’m learning a lot from this thread. I didn’t realise how long the commercials had been around by the time the films started rolling in.


  30. Saves Christmas, Goes To Jail and Scared Stupid are all surprisingly good.

    As a kid we had Goes To Camp and Goes To Jail on vhs recorded from tv and I remember them getting a lot of airtime with us kids.

  31. I just learned that SAVES CHRISTMAS was apparently originally written as a stand-alone movie by Thom Eberhardt of NIGHT OF THE COMET, CAPTAIN RON, WITHOUT A CLUE and THE NIGHT BEFORE fame. But when Disney said “We like it, but we’re gonna put Ernest in it”, he removed his name. Not sure how much from his script ended up in the finished movie, but out of those Ernest joints that I know, it always stood out to me as the one with an actual story and most of all, the one where Ernest is more of a supporting character who helped other, more real characters, on their journey. Like a rubberfaced slapstick Jack Burton.

  32. Varney really needed to get a great villain role in an action movie or something to bust him out of the comedy thing, he’s a legit good actor and ti was fun seeing him play a bad guy (very well) in the Jail one. These movies are all relatively bad but I do like the character and I like Varney playing him. The movies got worse as they got even more kid-friendly, to the point of making him an obvious Pee-Wee wannabe with all of his inventions. Kind of wish they did one not pitched at kids…not saying R-rated, just have Ernest hanging out with redneck buddies drinking beer or something. Some kind of just weirdo comedy. They could even stick with a gimmick plot…”Ernest gets Abducted” would be a good UFO storyline where aliens grabs him and later no one believes his story and he’s considered the town crank…could you imagine the great mugging his rubbery face could do during the anal probe scene? That would be some funny shit!

  33. grimgrinningchris

    June 20th, 2024 at 5:31 am

    Speaking to my earlier comment about being a card carrying member of the Ernest Fan Club as a kid when he’d only done commercials… Was anyone else here in any official fanclubs as a kid? I know I was in a couple. But the only ones that spring to mind were an eaaarly, like pre 1985 Nickelodeon fanclub and some sort of NES Nintendo fanclub. Though with that one I may just be thinking of a subscription to Nintendo Power magazine.

  34. I don’t think I’ve been a big enough fan of anything to join a club back in my youth.The only exception was the Club Nintendo, but that was free and the only benefit I got was getting a magazine every month. Originally these were just translated issues of NINTENDO POWER, but around 1993 or 94 they made their own editorial team. It was still more or less an advertisement, but pre-teen me liked it.

  35. grimgrinningchris

    June 20th, 2024 at 7:26 am

    Yeah. The American version was basically just a monthly advertisement too. I just remembered I also had subscriptions to official magazines for both Masters Of The Universe and Transformers too.

    Back to Varney. I wonder if he ever did actual stand up as Ernest. I know he did appearances in character. He would’ve been like the proto-Blue Collar Comedy guy

  36. Pacman 2.0, thanks so much for sharing that Coke Sams interview. It was an interesting and enlightening read. Jim Varney & co. come across as hardworking outsider artists, even if they were hustling to make a buck from local TV affiliates. It’s probably going too far to say Varney was like a more commercial, redneck Rudy Ray Moore, but Ithink there are similarities.

  37. I actually had a similar thought after I spent a lot of time reading and talking about the whole ERNEST thing in the last week. Say what you want about the Ernest empire, but in retrospect there are enough reasons to call Ernest an icon of independent cinema.

  38. Chris – I was in the E.T. Fan Club. I believe it got me a quarterly or bi-annual news letter, a membership certificate (signed with tiny E.T. footprints) and a flexi-disc called “E.T. Speaks” that was just the parts of the movie where he speaks. There’s no way I got rid of the membership card on purpose so hopefully I’ll find it in a box somewhere some day and start carrying it again.

  39. I finally watched all the Ernest movies a few heads ago (had only ever seen the four theatrical ones) and surprisingly still liked them all. I was most impressed by Rides Again as I guess it still had a theatrical budget and some pretty elaborate physical shenanigans. But he’s an endearing character even in DTV.

    I don’t think it was a fan club but I subscribed to Joe Bob Briggs’ newsletter. That was for film criticism though.

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