If there was such a thing as the Acid Pop Cult Hall of Fame, one of the biggest busts in it, aside from Uschi Digard’s, would be the bust of actor/comedian Jim Varney.
Varney had the good fortune, or misfortune depending on how you look at it, of finding an iconic character that audiences loved. He appeared in eight films, nine if you count a TV, as Ernest P. Worrel, the lovable loser with a heart of gold and fingers you can’t believe aren’t real butter. He even parlayed the character into one season of a Saturday morning TV show called Hey Vern, Its’ Ernest.
The Ernest character was an all-ages delight. Ernest still has the power to delight kids today if you give the films a chance. That’s why Ernest Scared Stupid made our list of movies that define the concept of Halloween movies on Episode 82 of the Acid Pop Cult Podcast.
Of course, Varney was much more talented than what he displayed as Ernest, unfortunately, like Paul Ruebens and Cassandra Peterson, most people only saw him as his most popular character. It wasn’t until he was given the opportunity to play Jed Clampett of the Beverly Hillbilliles near the end of his life that he got the chance to prove his talent to a large audience.
He shined in the movie, even though the movie itself wasn’t very good.
Perhaps some of his best performances were as the character Virgil Simms on Fernwood Tonight and America Tonight, along side Martin Mull and Fred Willard.
Simms was an occasional guest on the fake talk show, and every time he appeared he stole the show. Simms was a greasy-haired, leisure-suit-wearing, mechanic and instructor at the local community college, gas station owner, and high school teacher, in the fictional town of Fernwood, Ohio. During his appearances, he usually presented an invention, idea, or tips for truckers or car maintenance, all of which bordered on the outrageous.
These performances alone are enough to get him a nomination in the fictional Acid Pop Cult Hall of Fame. You can find quite a few episodes of Fernwood Tonight YouTube. Even when Jim Varney is not a guest on the show, it’s entertaining as hell. Fernwood Tonight is one of those classic shows that doesn’t seem to receive the attention it deserves.
In this clip, Virgil Simms introduces us to the country song If I’d a Knowed That You’d a Wanted to Have Went With Me I’d Have Seed That You Got to Get to Go, in his Tips for Truckers segment.
In this clip, Virgil Simms describes his attempt to jump three motorcycles in a fully equipped mobile home. He also explains what to look for when buying a used car.
Little known fact: Virgil Simms created the first electric car.
We miss Jim Varney dearly. RIP, brother. RIP.