Varney attended after high school, the Murray State University. During his school years, he participated in theater performances. From the mid- 1970s, he starred in several television series, from 1977 to 1978, he played Seaman Broom in the series use petticoat.
In 1980, he gained national notoriety in the United States by the developed by him and used in various commercials character " Ernest ". The character proved so successful that after a few video releases emerged a TV series and a number of feature films. The first movie chaos in the camp played a 25 million U.S. dollars. Varney was nominated for his performance for the Golden Raspberry. For the television series Hey Vern, It's Ernest in 1988 he won an Emmy Award. By 1998, nine more Ernest films were made. Since he was strongly committed to his role, he played only occasionally other roles, including The Beverly Hillbillies! and Daddy and Them - Girl, Interrupted in Arkansas, still he said the role of the dog Slinky Dog in the Walt Disney / Pixar animated film Toy Story 1 and 2
Varney died in 2000 from lung cancer.