TURLOCK — Did you hear the one about the banquet emcee who made a joke about the president being assassinated?
Roughly 300-plus guests did during the Turlock Chamber of Commerce's Best of Turlock dinner Friday night.
During an event intended to honor the city's best and brightest, master of ceremonies Marty Jakosa went off-script with a political joke.
He uttered one that has been around the Internet in varying forms for quite some time, in which an insomniac President Barack Obama questions the ghosts of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln about what he should do to help the country. The punch line: "Do what I did, go see a play," Lincoln tells him.
Jakosa told that? Really? In public? On a night that was supposed to belong to the honorees?
Jakosa, who in 2010 was brought in to moderate a Turlock City Council special meeting on how council members interact with one another and with the public?
And in Turlock, where a 22-year-old ice cream scooper was fired shortly after Obama's re-election in November because she used the N-word and wrote, "Maybe he will get assassinated this term..!!" in a Facebook posting?
Then, soaring to perhaps an unprecedented level of stupidity, she told a Sacramento TV station that she stood by her comments?
Jakosa told me Monday he was unaware of the Facebooker's racist diatribe even though the story went viral and was reported worldwide.
Even so, what compelled him to think Friday night's event was the time or place for mean-spirited political humor?
"It was a long evening," Jakosa said. "I made a joke that probably shouldn't have been done."
One person who attended said the joke came early in the program shortly after Rep. Jeff Denham left for another event but before the awards presentation began. Turlock Mayor John Lazar, Stanislaus County Supervisor Vito Chiesa, chamber officials and representatives from Denham's and state Sen. Anthony Cannella's offices also were on the stage when Jakosa told the joke.
It was met, I'm told, by mostly silence and awkwardness. The crowd included students and educators not just chamber members. Others I spoke with, who are usually good for a quote, didn't want to talk on the record.
"It was meant to lighten up the evening," Jakosa said. "I had a lot of people come up and say it was a funny joke. In hindsight, it was probably insensitive. I would never disparage the office of the president or President Obama."
The same president who, by the way, ceremoniously pardoned a couple of turkeys sent to the White House in 2010 by Foster Farms, where Jakosa is an executive.
Certainly, the joke wasn't in the script given to Jakosa by the chamber. Chamber Chief Executive Officer Sharon Silva sent a copy of it to a Bee reporter before the event. No joke.
Jakosa said he told it to tease Silva, a Republican who had just returned after attending Obama's second inaugural last week in Washington, D.C., as did Lazar, a Democrat. Both were invited by Denham, a Republican.
Silva said it was unfortunate because the focus of the event should have been and should remain on those honored that night. "I'm sure there were people in that audience who would have preferred it hadn't happened," she said. "We had such wonderful people we were honoring. We didn't want someone making such a joke. That's not something the board of directors wanted in the script."
Lazar said he found the joke to be inappropriate because, echoing Silva's feelings, the memories of that night should belong to those honored.
"I had several people contact me and say it was not appropriate," Lazar said. "He's a nice person. He's friend of mine. But it shouldn't have been about politics. It should have been about Turlock's best."
Certainly, the evening wasn't devoid of politics, including the politicians, from both parties, and their reps, who were there to recognize the honorees.
Lazar said he thinks Jakosa regrets telling the joke.
Jury's still out on that one.
"I'm not sure why people are making a fuss about it instead of putting the attention on the people who are Turlock's best," Jakosa told me.
He must be joking.
Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. He can be reached at email@example.com, @jeffjardine57 on Twitter or at (209) 578-2383.