Fernando Botero's fat people are great fun, and it's a shame that the Hirshhorn Museum curators make it hard for visitors to get all the jokes in the show of 66 Botero works.

Many of Botero's paintings are parodies of such Old Masters as Jan van Eyck, Caravaggio, Velazquez and the handsome catalogue to the show ($6) juxtaposes photos of the originals with Botero's "homage." For some reason there's nothing similar in the show, even though the identification cards do list the originals.

Botero, a Colombian, started his career as a boy as an illustrator for Medellin's leading newspaper, which may explain why so many of his paintings are glorified political cartoons. He left Colombia in the early 1950s and has studied and worked in Spain and Italy with working visits to Mexico and New York -- Botero's "Mona Lisa, Age Twelve" was one of the first Pop Art works acquired by the Museum of Modern Art.

Also in the show are several of Botero's sculptures, recent undertakings that reflect the paintings both in their rotundity and in their brilliant colors.

Many of the men in Botero's paintings, particularly the Latin American political ones such as "The Presidential Family" and "Official Portrait of the Military Junta," are curious look-alikes with trim moustaches and granny glasses just like Botero himself. Yet even in the same painting these look-alikes can show extreme range in character -- sinister, pious, bibulous, innocent, officious, fauning. All fun.

The Botero show will be at the Hirshhorn through February 10, when it goes on tour.