Comedian shocked the sheriff? Off-color jokes stir controversy

L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca was among those in the audience at the Sheriff's Day Luncheon on Wednesday.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Share via

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department apologized to anyone who might have been offended by a comedian’s racist and off-color stand-up routine at a luncheon and said it will be “reviewed.”

About 600 to 700 people, many in uniforms, attended the Sheriff’s Day Luncheon, where comedian Edwin San Juan delivered a 30-minute performance that was filled with sexually explicit and racist humor, people in attendance said.

“He managed to insult every ethnic group,” said one attendee, who requested that his name not be used. “There was a lot of cringing and nervous laughter.... I was sitting there thinking, ‘Are you kidding me?’”


The event was hosted by a law enforcement association and was not an official Sheriff’s Department event.

“If anyone was offended, that was not the intent and certainly apologies are extended,” Baca’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said, adding that he wasn’t at the event so he couldn’t comment on the specifics of the routine.

San Juan could not be reached to discuss the performance, but posted two photos of himself with Baca on his Facebook page. He also linked to a Times story about the controversy, saying only: “WOWZERS ?!”

On Twitter, he said, “Best one yet!” in response to another comedian’s tweet wondering if San Juan’s favorite Bob Marley song is “I Shocked the Sheriff.”

In a photograph posted on San Juan’s Twitter and Facebook pages, Baca and William McSweeney, chief of the agency’s detectives, are shown smiling with San Juan as they present him with a plaque.

Whitmore said he spoke to Baca, and the sheriff said he “became concerned that people would complain” but decided to give the comedian the plaque anyway “to thank him for volunteering to come to the luncheon.”


Baca “wants to remind everyone this is a comedian,” Whitmore said. “No one in the department would say this.”

San Juan, who described himself on his Twitter feed as Filipino, made fun of the accents of Asians, Indians and other ethnic groups, the attendee said.

Among other things, San Juan made jokes evoking stereotypes about Koreans and used the N-word in a joke in which he mocked a thick Filipino accent.

But one Sheriff’s Department official who attended the lunch said the event sends a mixed message:

“It is perplexing that, as much as we fight racism on the department, the sheriff would embrace and seemed to condone the completely racist monologue. The sheriff even presented him with a small trophy of appreciation afterward.”

The event in Montebello was hosted by the Peace Officers Assn. of Los Angeles County, a nonprofit group that works “to advance the interests of public safety and professional law enforcement in Los Angeles County,” according to its website.



Body found near Venice boardwalk; LAPD is investigating

Plague found in squirrel; parts of Angeles National Forest closed

Guinness shoe world record holder found dead; boyfriend arrested