Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel on Sesame Street: How to Give a Thumbs Up

The late great critics demonstrate their "critic exercises" to keep their thumbs in good shape

  • Share
  • Read Later


The death of legendary film critic Roger Ebert has prompted a flood of memories from friends and colleagues, and from many—like TIME’s James Poniewozik—who knew him first from afar, as the owner of one of the most famous thumbs in the world. Along with fellow critic Gene Siskel, who died in 1999, Ebert reshaped the way the world talks about movies by introducing the binary judgement of a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down.”

But not everyone was introduced to them through At the Movies, their famous TV show.

Some of us first got to know him on Sesame Street, via the segment above, still memorable 21 years later. As Sesame Street is wont to do, the show had a Muppet-filled twist on the real Siskel & Ebert show, but with Oscar the Grouch and Telly Monster reviewing bits from the show. In this clip, the real critics teach the meaning of “thumbs up” and “thumbs down,” proper thumb technique and how to do “critic exercises” that keep your thumbs in working order. And though Ebert argues passionately for the need for a “thumbs sideways,” that’s a level of qualifying unnecessary for anyone reviewing this sweet clip.

(MORERoger Ebert: Farewell to a Film Legend and Friend)