Laughter and warmth were palpable throughout NBC Studios when Chaz Ebert made her appearance last Friday, July 18th, on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” It was one of the most anticipated stops on her promotional tour for Steve James’ acclaimed documentary, “Life Itself,” based on Roger Ebert’s 2011 memoir of the same name, and the trip did not disappoint. The film’s candid footage of Roger and his invaluable TV pundit, Gene Siskel, sparring between takes of a promo shoot scored big laughs with the studio audience, though that was only one of the night’s many highlights.
Nostalgia inevitably flowed into the conversation, as Chaz explained how advice columnist Ann Landers first introduced her to Roger, and accompanied the story with her own Landers impression. She also recalled Roger’s initial skepticism regarding Twitter and the unbridled enthusiasm with which he ultimately sought to master it, finding new ways to inject wit and insight into 140 characters. “He used to tweet like a teenager,” Chaz reminisced. Her presence on Friday’s show was especially poignant, considering that the day marked her and Roger’s 22nd anniversary.
With a genial self-deprecation typical of his comic persona, Fallon read aloud excerpts from Roger’s one-star review of “Taxi,” the 2004 flop where he co-starred opposite Queen Latifah. Yet Chaz was quick to point out that Roger awarded three-and-a-half stars to the Farrelly Brothers’ 2005 Nick Hornby adaptation, “Fever Pitch,” pairing Fallon with Drew Barrymore. He likened Fallon’s perfection in the role to that of John Cusack in “High Fidelity” and Hugh Grant in “About a Boy,” before praising his “high spirits” and “boyish enthusiasm.” The “Tonight Show” audience accompanied these kudos with encouraging applause.
In return, Fallon gave “two thumbs up” to Roger and the film, declaring that "it makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you love life." He also laughed himself silly during the “Siskel & Ebert” clip, while “The Roots” drummer Questlove appeared hilariously gobsmacked. After recounting how Roger created the show’s iconic trademarked phrase, “Two Thumbs Up,” she asked everyone who saw and enjoyed “Life Itself” to share their love (and thumbs) online.
Share a photo of you and your friends giving “Two Thumbs Up” to “Life Itself” on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, and your endorsement just might end up on RogerEbert.com. “Life Itself” is now playing in theaters and on various platforms available online and at home. Click here for more info.