sarcastic sports and style columnist for The Washington Post. Kornheisers 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 (“Its Now an Off-Road Vehicle,” November 5, 1996) to his lunch-time experience the other day (“In a Real Fix,” November 3, 1996). Kornheisers 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 Kornheisers humor finds room for them.
Tony Kornheisers 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 Posts 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 Kornheisers 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 “Its 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. Kornheisers 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. Elizabeths, a local mental hospital. In that same article he also compares his whole experience to “going down into the Metro and finding youre 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.” Thats 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 “Its 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 Kornheisers 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 arent even wearing shirts,” as a joke about the dress code necessary for this place. When he claims that his boss, George, was nervous because “hed 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 readers reaction the best. In “Its Now an Off-Road Vehicle” the same tone is evident. He expresses his thoughts on Jim Kellys age (Jim Kelly is a 37 year old quarterback for the Buffalo Bills) by comparing Kellys 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 Kornheisers 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 “Its 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 Kornheisers 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 doesnt 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.