In his column today, Tom Friedman treated his readers to the comic stylings of Kirkuk Deputy Provincial Council Chairman Rebwar Talabani, using a joke of Talabani's to emphasize the importance of putting aside historical grievances to solve problems. It's hardly the first time Friedman has used a joke to prove a point. Indeed, a quick search through The New York Times archives reveals about 17 other instances when he used comedy to expound upon, among other things, the flatness of the Earth or the interconnectedness of Lexuses and olive trees. Here's a representative sampling, graded for funniness and insight:
Column: "An American's Respite From Disillusionment," September 19, 1993
Joke: "For years I have explained the longevity of the Arab-Israeli conflict with a joke about a very religious Jew named Goldberg who wanted to win the lottery. He would go to synagogue every Sabbath and pray: 'God, I have been such a pious man all of my life. What would be so bad if I won the lottery?' And the lottery would come, and Goldberg would not win. This went on week after week, month after month. Finally, one Sabbath, Goldberg couldn't take it anymore, and said to the Almighty: 'God, I have been so good, so observant. What do I have to do to win the lottery?' And suddenly the heavens parted and the voice of God boomed out: 'Goldberg, give me a chance. Buy a ticket.'"
Funniness: 7 out of 10. Clever enough, but not laugh-out-loud funny.
Insight: 3 out of 10. Friedman views the joke as an indictment of the unwillingness of every side in the Middle East to do their part to commit to peace. I view it as proof that Goldberg is kind of dumb.