John R. Cherry III

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John R. Cherry III
Born(1948-10-11)October 11, 1948
DiedMay 8, 2022(2022-05-08) (aged 73)
OccupationDirector, screenwriter, producer, actor
Known forErnest P. Worrell

John R. Cherry III (October 11, 1948 – May 8, 2022) was an American film director and screenwriter, most notable for creating the character of Ernest P. Worrell, played by Jim Varney.


A native of Nashville, Tennessee, Cherry attended the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida.

He was the executive vice president and co-namesake of the Nashville-based Carden and Cherry advertising agency, for which the "Ernest" character was developed. He based the character on a man who worked for his father, about whom Cherry said, that he thought he knew everything but did not know anything.[1]

Ernest was portrayed for 15 years by Jim Varney, who at the time of the character's debut was an up-and-coming stand-up comic; after a string of successful commercials and sketches, Cherry directed a television series (Hey, Vern! It's Ernest) and several movies. Cherry made three cameo appearances in his own films: in Slam Dunk Ernest as a basketball spectator, Ernest Goes to Africa as a customer, and in Ernest in the Army as Sergeant Ben Kovsky. In addition to Varney, Cherry also introduced the comic duo of Chuck and Bobby (Gailard Sartain and Bill Byrge respectively), who were integrated into the Ernest films as supporting characters.

Cherry retired the Ernest character after Varney's declining health made it impossible for him to continue in the role (Varney died in 2000). He directed two other films without Ernest: For Love or Mummy, a collaboration with Larry Harmon that sought to reintroduce the long-deceased Laurel and Hardy comic team with new actors (with Hardy portrayed by Sartain); and Pirates of the Plain, for which Cherry had intended to include Varney but could not.

Personal life

Cherry had three children from two marriages.[citation needed] His son Josh appeared in Ernest in the Army as Corporal Davis.

Cherry died from Parkinson's disease on May 8, 2022, aged 73.[2]




  1. ^ Willman, Chris. "Varney: The Importance of Being Ernest". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 21, 2017. Retrieved October 6, 2010.
  2. ^ Dick, Jeremy (May 8, 2022). "John Cherry, Creator of Jim Varney's Ernest, Dies at 73". MovieWeb. Retrieved May 8, 2022.

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