Kornheiser shows versatility in new collection

Tony Kornheiser is known to many sports fans through his frequent appearances on ESPN's "The Sports Reporters" and as co-host of the cable TV network's "Pardon the Interruption."

Add a daily show on ESPN Radio and a longtime stint as a sports columnist for The Washington Post, and it's easy to see that Kornheiser isn't exactly toiling in anonymity.

It is possible, however, that he has been unfairly pigeonholed.

For this man, who loves new Washington Redskins coach Steve Spurrier and loathes Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick, is at home with a variety of subjects. It doesn't matter to Kornheiser if the topic is the Monica Lewinsky scandal or his experiences as a lifeline for "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." If there's humor to be had, Kornheiser is likely to find it.

His new collection, "I'm Back for More Cash," shows off the versatility, the wit and the self-deprecating style that have made his humor columns for the Post so popular.

"You'll forgive me if I seem a little down today. But my hopes, my dreams are dashed," Kornheiser writes. "I don't ask for much out of life. I just want to fit into size 36 Dockers. I was willing to do almost anything � except, you know, stop eating cheese fries."

That begins a column in which Kornheiser cites a study saying the death rate for liposuction is up to 60 times as high as the death rate for all operations, "including those in which the patient pretty much starts out dead."

In reading Kornheiser it becomes apparent that as much as he enjoys varying his subjects, he often returns to some tried-and-true topics that provide plenty of comic fodder.

There is his teen-age daughter Elizabeth ("my sweet baboo") who never wants her father around because he is "Pope Dork II"; his elderly, ever-shrinking father ("He reminds me of a footstool. It is quite convenient for us to travel together because he can be stowed neatly in the overhead."); a family trip to Disney World ("I've got nothing against Disney characters, but what explains their powerful attraction for me? Do I look like such a dork that I'd want to have a photo taken with a grown adult wearing a Styrofoam chipmunk head?"); and, of course, his weight and his hair loss.

Sports is mentioned only in references to his golf game.

"I'm a 20 handicap, which means if you're standing anywhere near me when I swing, you've got a fifty-fifty shot of needing CPR."

Some of the jokes become a bit repetitive � there are only so many ways to say that your children don't think you're cool � but, somehow, even the ones you can see coming generate laughs.

Kornheiser is reminiscent of the uncle everybody has who's constantly telling jokes and making a fool of himself just to get a few chuckles at family gatherings. He is so self-deprecating and so eager to get people giggling � he often punctuates a one-liner with an exclamation such as "Bada-bing!" � that you find yourself chuckling along with his good humor.

"God help me, I don't want this to end," Kornheiser writes in a piece about the Florida election recount.

After enough laughs, it would be easy to say the same thing about his collection.

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