All things considered, nuclear war isn't that funny. But sometimes it takes a joke about nuclear war to help people understand just how serious war can be, says Salt Lake pediatrician Louis Borgenicht.

Borgenicht points to a newspaper cartoon showing the Earth, pretty much totally destroyed. Above the Earth is a spaceship, maybe from Mars. The Martians are discussing the holocaust below: "They call it a limited nuclear war. It was limited to 45 minutes."The slide is part of "Nuclear Humor," the presentation Borgenicht has presented dozens of times over the past two years, from Salt Lake City to London.

Last year, with peace breaking out all over the globe, it looked like "Nuclear Humor" was becoming a historical artifact. But then along came Saddam Hussein. Now Borgenicht's look at the nuclear threat is painfully timely.

Tuesday, with war in the gulf almost a certainty, he presented the slide show to members of the Salt Lake Rotary Club.

"What's the difference between Saddam Hussein and a rabid pit bull?" asks another cartoon. Answer: "A pit bull doesn't have nuclear weapons."

Borgenicht, a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility, used to give speeches detailing the horrors of nuclear war. He depressed a lot of people, including himself, he says, but it wasn't until he started telling nuclear jokes that he started getting people's attention.

Jokes, he says, make people think about nuclear threat in a new way. But Borgenicht turned serious as he addressed the Rotary Club at its weekly luncheon.

"Since the invasion of Kuwait and the U.S. military response, we have all become victims of irony, historical imperative, Orwellian doublespeak, pride, patriarchy, in what seems both an inexorable and unreal process of meaningless conflict."

He noted that U.S. forces are capable of delivering one million tons of explosives a day. During all of World War II, Allied forces delivered four million tons of bombs, including the nuclear weapons detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

With time running out, and peace negotiations unproductive, Borgenicht added, "Clearly, for war not to occur will take the intervention of someone other than George Bush or Saddam Hussein. And it may take a miracle."