Live

Watch CBSN Live

Ernest Goes To Heaven

Actor Jim Varney has died of lung cancer at his home in White House, Tennessee at the age of 50.

Varney portrayed the rubbernecked rube "Ernest" in a series of movies and hundreds of TV commercials.

In the commercials, he got his fingers slammed in a house window, fell off a ladder and got electrically shocked fooling with a broken TV set. He plugged a variety of sponsors, including dairy products, car dealerships, pizza and radio stations.

He said in 1984, "Ernest is a neighbor or relative that we've all had at one time. He's abrasive, but he doesn't mean to be. He gets excited and ends up standing on your toes. I try to make him clownish and I don't want him too low key; and he's physically funny."

"It's been my biggest sounding board. I've grown to know him well."

He laughed when asked if he's anything like Ernest.

"Am I a bozo? I'm not abrasive. But yes, I guess I am a bozo."

Varney, born and raised in Lexington, Ky., first gained attention as a standup comic, performing at The Comedy Store in Los Angeles.

Varney told reporters he suffered from depression much of his adult life.

A memorial service will be scheduled in Nashville and Varney will be buried in his hometown of Lexington.

CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report

View CBS News In