There is plenty of real life markup which is about as bad, which rather takes the sting out of the joke (I usually like xkcd).
One example I mentioned in a recent thread was creating a two column table by using a paragraph per line, and a fixed with <b> tag for for the first column. I can provide a few more from my own experience, and there is always the DailyWTF for better still.
What makes you so sure it isn't from real life? :)
I recently met the flip side of your tableless table example: A two-column table where each side contained a few rows of centered text. Instead of putting it into two centered cells with <br>, the writer chose to make each line into a separate table row, each with the same inline styling. By hand, at that. We got that one reduced to about 1/4 its original size. And-- whew!-- someone other than me explained the two lines of CSS that replaced the seven pieces of inline markup.