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Tony Kronheiser
Tony Kornheiser is the self-admitted opinionated, sarcastic sports and style
columnist for The Washington Post. Kornheiser’s purpose is not to report to the
reader an objective account of a sporting event, but rather to add humor to
topics that range in topic from the Washington Redskins (“It’s Now an Off-Road
Vehicle,” November 5, 1996) to his lunch-time experience the other day (“In a
Real Fix,” November 3, 1996). Kornheiser’s diction, figurative language, and
tone make his columns what they are. Often, diction, figurative language, and
tone are not common in the journalistic world, but Kornheiser’s humor finds room
for them.

Tony Kornheiser’s sarcasm is almost entirely related to his diction. He
contains the skills to take something as insignificant as a restaurant changing
on him unexpectedly and reports about it so that the common man can relate. He
is The Washington Post’s Jerry Seinfeld. He blends the slang of the street man
with the poetic verbs and fluid adjectives of an English teacher. For example,
in “In A Real Fixe,” Kornheiser says, “George was beginning to suspect that we
had entered (doo-doo, doo-doo). . . The Nouvelle Dining Zone.” Most people who
have watched the Twilight Zone before can relate this statement as a reference
to the famous TV show, so Kornheiser’s slang was effective in grabbing the
reader, even if a large majority of them have no idea what the word “nouvelle”
means. Kornheiser uses an array of such adjectives throughout his pieces but he
does not pretend to be above his readers. He fills his work with colloquial
speech such as his references in “It’s Now an Off-Road Vehicle” to other
Washington Post columnists such as Michael Wilbon, and to his “Redskins
Bandwagon.” (The Redskins Bandwagon was a common phrase used by Washington
Redskins fans when the team won the Superbowl in 1991). Kornheiser assumes that
the reader is familiar with him, and that is clear in his informal diction that
is used with the reader. It is almost to the point of a friendship, as though a
coworker was letting off his steam at work during a lunch break.

Kornheiser’s figurative speech also add to his style quite well. The
blend of diction and figurative speech is clear as Kornheiser uses several local
allusions in his metaphors and similes that add to his “common man” image. For
example, in “In a Real Fixe,” Kornheiser compares the look of a hostess’ face to
one of a nurse at St. Elizabeth’s, a local mental hospital. In that same
article he also compares his whole experience to “going down into the Metro and
finding you’re on the Concorde.” His figurative language add to his sarcasm.

Anytime a metaphor or a simile is used, it is used for exaggeration purpose.

Sarcasm is funny exaggeration. Kornheiser compared his expensive lunch meal to
“Big Red chewing gum wrapped around a pimento.” That’s funny because he is
comparing such an precious meal to a piece of gum and a pimento, a $25 meal to a
25 cent meal. In “It’s Now an Off-Road Vehicle,” the whole column is one giant
metaphor. His Redskins Bandwagon (which is supposedly a vehicle that starts up
and gets ready to let fans hop on all the way to the Superbowl with the Redskins,
but if you are a Kornheiser reader, he expects you to know that already) has
turned into an “off-road vehicle” because of a Redskins crushing defeat to a
team. His figurative language is easy to understand, and it is funny. Always,
though, it is used in a satirical manner and it is always used to help the
reader to relate to the situation, usually in their terms.

The most important element of Kornheiser’s writing is his tone. His
tone is extremely sarcastic, light-hearted, facetious, and sometimes derogatory
to his peers. It is his tone which makes the diction and the figurative
language work. If his tone were one of seriousness, there would still be the
sarcasm but it would be far less understandable. In “In a Real Fixe,” the main
theme of his story is about how uncomfortable he and his friends felt in the
fancy restaurant that had once been an eat-and-go place. It is apparent how
uncomfortable they felt by the quotes that Kornheiser uses. When his boss,
George, is questioned about imported water, he says that he “likes tap water.”
This clearly shows the uncharacteristic situation that they are in. His sarcasm
is shown when he refers to cold buffets he had been to before where “some guys
aren’t even wearing shirts,” as a joke about the dress code necessary for this
place. When he claims that his boss, George, was nervous because “he’d never
been anywhere with fresh flowers before, other than a funeral,” it is obviously
sarcastic to express the point. It is that kind of tone that gets the reader’s
reaction the best. In “It’s Now an Off-Road Vehicle” the same tone is evident.

He expresses his thoughts on Jim Kelly’s age (Jim Kelly is a 37 year old
quarterback for the Buffalo Bills) by comparing Kelly’s age to his own age in
terms of calling himself the “Sultan of Samarkand.” When mentioning the Redskins
poor performance, he jokes that a team that cannot tackle, cannot pass, and
cannot run cannot win unless they are playing the St. Louis Rams (a notoriously
bad franchise in professional football). It is comments like those that make
Kornheiser’s columns funny. His derogatory name calling is also humorous
because it is rare that a columnist stoops down to such a level without remorse.

In “In a Real Fixe,” he refers to his boss (his boss!) as a “notoriously cheap”
man and gives a funny example of how tight his boss is. In “It’s Now An Off-
Road Vehicle,” Kornheiser lashes out of fellow columnist Michael Wilbon for a
considerable length of the piece. This derogatory tone, however, is funny not
serious, which adds to the overall facetious attire of the columns.

It is clear that Tony Kornheiser’s purpose in writing is not to inform
the reader of an event that happened. The average person could care less what
Kornheiser ate for lunch or what he thinks about fellow reporters, but he writes
about it anyway. He doesn’t write about those topics just to write about those
topics, he writes about those topics because the average person wants someone to
relate to and they want someone to laugh with, and sometimes at, when Kornheiser
self-abuses himself. People like Kornheiser because he is like a buddy. He
writes about average stuff, and he is willing to stoop down to low levels to
impress. But Kornheiser is not an average writer, he is instead a well-
practiced, intelligent one, as shown by his usage of vivid verbs, aesthetic
adjectives, and no-nonsense nouns. If requested, Kornheiser could write a plain
summary of a football game or a basketball game, but instead, Kornheiser has his
job because he is talented. He expects people to read his column and it is
shown in the continuation of each article. He knows he is good and he is not
afraid to show a certain cockiness, but it is his colloquial sarcasm that wins
the readers.


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