NEW YORK -- President Barack Obama on Thursday gave a spirited and funny speech at the annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation dinner in Manhattan, an evening hosted by the Archdiocese of New York and attended by many of the nation's most prominent Catholic citizens and clergy. Both presidential candidates have traditionally attended the dinner and given lighthearted speeches, and neither Obama nor Mitt Romney disappointed audiences Thursday.

There was one moment, however, that few people expected -- a deadpan joke from the president.

"Of course, the economy's on everybody's minds," Obama began. "The unemployment rate is at its lowest level since I took office." Here, typically, audiences might have expected a funny line. Instead, Obama looked dead-serious. "I don't have a joke here," he said. "I just thought it would be useful to remind everybody that the unemployment rate is at the lowest it's been since I took office. And we're getting to that time when folks are making up their minds."

Indeed, unemployment in September dropped to 7.8 percent, the lowest since January 2009, when Obama took office amid the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The jobs numbers added fuel to the Democrats' argument that the economic recovery is on track, albeit slower than the president promised.

It took audience members a few seconds to get the humor, or the seriousness, of Obama's remarks. They laughed and cheered, nonetheless, and Obama broke into a quick, layup of a joke, announcing, "Just the other day, [reality star] Honey Boo Boo endorsed me. So that's a big relief."

Romney, dressed in white tie as was Obama, spoke before the president, and gave what was by all accounts a magnanimous speech.

"Don't tell anyone I said so, but our 44th president has many gifts and a beautiful family that would make any man proud. ... In our country, you can oppose someone in politics and make a confident case against their policies without any ill will. And that's how it is for me."



Loading Slideshow...
  • US-VOTE-2012-DEMOCRATIC CAMPAIGN

    US President Barack Obama (L), Cardinal Timothy Dolan (C), Archbishop of New York, and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R) attend the 67th annual Al Smith dinner at the Waldorf Astoria hotel October 18, 2012 in New York, New York. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEMOCRATIC CAMPAIGN

    US President Barack Obama (L), Cardinal Timothy Dolan (2L), Archbishop of New York, Mitt Romney (2R) Ann Romney and others attend the 67th annual Al Smith dinner at the Waldorf Astoria hotel October 18, 2012 in New York, New York. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEMOCRATIC CAMPAIGN

    US President Barack Obama (L), Cardinal Timothy Dolan (C), Archbishop of New York, and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R) during the 67th annual Al Smith dinner at the Waldorf Astoria hotel October 18, 2012 in New York, New York. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEMOCRATIC CAMPAIGN

    US President Barack Obama (L), Cardinal Timothy Dolan (2nd-L), Archbishop of New York, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (2nd-R) with wife Ann Romney (R) attend the 67th annual Al Smith dinner at the Waldorf Astoria hotel October 18, 2012 in New York, New York. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEMOCRATIC CAMPAIGN

    Republican US presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks during the 67th annual Al Smith dinner at the Waldorf Astoria hotel October 18, 2012 in New York, New York. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEMOCRATIC CAMPAIGN

    Republican US presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) speaks during the 67th annual Al Smith dinner at the Waldorf Astoria hotel October 18, 2012 in New York, New York. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEMOCRATIC CAMPAIGN

    US President Barack Obama (L), Cardinal Timothy Dolan (2L), Archbishop of New York, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (2R), Ann Romney (R) and others attend the 67th annual Al Smith dinner at the Waldorf Astoria hotel October 18, 2012 in New York, New York. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEMOCRATIC CAMPAIGN

    Republican US presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks during the 67th annual Al Smith dinner at the Waldorf Astoria hotel October 18, 2012 in New York, New York. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEMOCRATIC CAMPAIGN

    US President Barack Obama and others listen as Republican US Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney speaks during the 67th annual Al Smith dinner at the Waldorf Astoria hotel October 18, 2012 in New York, New York. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE2012

    US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and US President Barack Obama attend the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Program at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York, October 18, 2012. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel DUNAND (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE2012

    US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and US President Barack Obama attend the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Program at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York, October 18, 2012. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel DUNAND (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE2012

    US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and US President Barack Obama attend the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Program at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York, October 18, 2012. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel DUNAND (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE2012

    US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and US President Barack Obama attend the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Program at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York, October 18, 2012. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel DUNAND (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEMOCRATIC CAMPAIGN

    Republican US Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney and US President Barack Obama shake hands during the 67th annual Al Smith dinner at the Waldorf Astoria hotel October 18, 2012 in New York, New York. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEMOCRATIC CAMPAIGN

    Republican US presidential candidate Mitt Romney and others listen as US President Barack Obama speaks during the 67th annual Al Smith dinner at the Waldorf Astoria hotel October 18, 2012 in New York, New York. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE2012

    US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and US President Barack Obama attend the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Program at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York, October 18, 2012. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel DUNAND (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE2012

    US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and US President Barack Obama attend the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Program at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York, October 18, 2012. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel DUNAND (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE2012

    US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and US President Barack Obama attend the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Program at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York, October 18, 2012. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel DUNAND (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE2012

    US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and US President Barack Obama attend the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Program at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York, October 18, 2012. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel DUNAND (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Barack Obama And Mitt Romney Address Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner

    NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 18: U.S. President Barack Obama (L) and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R) share a laugh at the 67th Annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on October 18, 2012 in New York City. The lighthearted white-tie charity gala has long been a tradition of the presidential race. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE2012

    US President Barack Obama addresses a speech while attending with US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Program at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York, October 18, 2012. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel DUNAND (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Barack Obama And Mitt Romney Address Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner

    NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 18: (L - R) U.S. President Barack Obama, Roman Catholic Cardinal and Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan, and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney share a laugh at the 67th Annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on October 18, 2012 in New York City. The lighthearted white-tie charity gala has long been a tradition of the presidential race. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

  • Barack Obama And Mitt Romney Address Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner

    NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 18: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) speaks as U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Alfred E. Smith IV (C) laugh at the 67th Annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on October 18, 2012 in New York City. The lighthearted white-tie charity gala has long been a tradition of the presidential race. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

  • Barack Obama And Mitt Romney Address Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner

    NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 18: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R) shakes hands with U.S. President Barack Obama at the 67th Annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on October 18, 2012 in New York City. The lighthearted white-tie charity gala has long been a tradition of the presidential race. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE2012

    People attend the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Program featuring appearances by US President Barack Obama and US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York, October 18, 2012. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel DUNAND (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Barack Obama And Mitt Romney Address Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner

    NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 18: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) attend the 67th Annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on October 18, 2012 in New York City. The lighthearted white-tie charity gala has long been a tradition of the presidential race. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

  • Barack Obama And Mitt Romney Address Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner

    NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 18: U.S. President Barack Obama (L), Roman Catholic Cardinal and Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan (R) and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (C) attend the 67th Annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on October 18, 2012 in New York City. The lighthearted white-tie gala has long been a tradition of the presidential race. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

  • Barack Obama And Mitt Romney Address Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner

    NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 18: U.S. President Barack Obama (L) and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (C) shake hands at the 67th Annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on October 18, 2012 in New York City. The lighthearted white-tie charity gala has long been a tradition of the presidential race. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEMOCRATIC CAMPAIGN

    Republican US presidential candidate Mitt Romney and US President Barack Obama shake hands during the 67th annual Al Smith dinner at the Waldorf Astoria hotel October 18, 2012 in New York, New York. AFP PHOTO / Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE2012

    People attend the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Program featuring appearances by US President Barack Obama and US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York, October 18, 2012. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel DUNAND (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Barack Obama And Mitt Romney Address Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner

    NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 18: U.S. President Barack Obama (L), Roman Catholic Cardinal and Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan (C), Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (2nd R) and Ann Romney (R) attend the 67th Annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on October 18, 2012 in New York City. The lighthearted white-tie charity gala has long been a tradition of the presidential race. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

  • US-VOTE-2012-DEMOCRATIC CAMPAIGN

    US President Barack Obama, Republican US presidential candidate Mitt Romney and others attend the 67th annual Al Smith dinner at the Waldorf Astoria hotel October 18, 2012 in New York, New York. AFP PHOTO / Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Barack Obama And Mitt Romney Address Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner

    NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 18: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) speaks as U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Alfred E. Smith IV (C) laugh at the 67th Annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on October 18, 2012 in New York City. The lighthearted white-tie charity gala has long been a tradition of the presidential race. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

  • Barack Obama And Mitt Romney Address Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner

    NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 18: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney share a laugh at the 67th Annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on October 18, 2012 in New York City. The lighthearted white-tie charity gala has long been a tradition of the presidential race. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

  • Barack Obama And Mitt Romney Address Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner

    NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 18: (L - R) U.S. President Barack Obama, Roman Catholic Cardinal and Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan, and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney attend the 67th Annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on October 18, 2012 in New York City. The lighthearted white-tie gala has long been a tradition of the presidential race. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

  • Barack Obama And Mitt Romney Address Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner

    NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 18: U.S. President Barack Obama (2nd L) and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) share a laugh as Ann Romney (R) looks on at the 67th Annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on October 18, 2012 in New York City. The lighthearted white-tie charity gala has long been a tradition of the presidential race. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

  • MItt Romney, Barack Obama

    Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama greet each other as they attend the 67th annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, a charity gala organized by the Archdiocese of New York, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012, at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • MItt Romney, Barack Obama

    Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama attend the 67th annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, a charity gala organized by the Archdiocese of New York, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012, at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • MItt Romney, Barack Obama, Timothy Dolan, Ann Romney

    Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama attend the 67th annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, a charity gala organized by the Archdiocese of New York, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012, at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York. Also pictured are Cardinal Timothy Dolan, second left, and Ann Romney, right. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • MItt Romney, Barack Obama, Timothy Dolan, Ann Romney

    Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama attend the 67th annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, a charity gala organized by the Archdiocese of New York, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012, at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York. Also pictured are Cardinal Timothy Dolan, second left, and Ann Romney, right. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • MItt Romney, Barack Obama, Timothy Dolan, Ann Romney

    Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama, left, attend the 67th annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, a charity gala organized by the Archdiocese of New York, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012, at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York. Also pictured are Cardinal Timothy Dolan, second left, and Ann Romney, second right. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Ann Romney

    President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, greet each other as they arrive at the Archdiocese of New York's 67th Annual Alfred. E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012, at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. At right is Ann Romney. The Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, a white-tie gala has been a required stop for politicians since the end of World War II. In keeping with tradition, candidates prepare humorous fare for the fundraising event organized by the Catholic Archdiocese of New York for the benefit of needy children. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • Barack Obama, Ann Romney

    President Barack Obama is greeted by dinner attendees including Ann Romney, second from left, as he arrives at the Archdiocese of New York's 67th Annual Alfred. E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012, at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. The Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, a white-tie gala has been a required stop for politicians since the end of World War II. In keeping with tradition, candidates prepare humorous fare for the fundraising event organized by the Catholic Archdiocese of New York for the benefit of needy children. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • MItt Romney, Barack Obama

    Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama attend the 67th annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, a charity gala organized by the Archdiocese of New York, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012, at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Ann Romney, Timothy Dolan

    From left, President Barack Obama, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and his wife Ann Romney attend the Archdiocese of New York's 67th Annual Alfred. E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012, at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • Barack Obama, Mitt Romney

    President Barack Obama, left, and Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, right, stand during the prayer with Cardinal Timothy Dolan during the Archdiocese of New York's 67th Annual Alfred. E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012, at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • Barack Obama, Mitt Romney

    President Barack Obama arrives at The Archdiocese of New York's 67th Annual Alfred. E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012, at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. The Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, a white-tie gala has been a required stop for politicians since the end of World War II. In keeping with tradition, candidates prepare humorous fare for the fundraising event organized by the Catholic Archdiocese of New York for the benefit of needy children. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • MItt Romney, Barack Obama, Timothy Dolan, Ann Romney

    Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama attend the 67th annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, a charity gala organized by the Archdiocese of New York, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012, at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York. Also pictured are Cardinal Timothy Dolan, second left, and Ann Romney, right. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • MItt Romney, Barack Obama, Timothy Dolan, Ann Romney

    Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama bow their heads in prayer as they attend the 67th annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, a charity gala organized by the Archdiocese of New York, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012, at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York. Also pictured are Cardinal Timothy Dolan, second left, and Ann Romney, second right. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • MItt Romney, Barack Obama, Timothy Dolan

    Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama stand with Cardinal Timothy Dolan as they bow their heads in prayer as they attend the 67th annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, a charity gala organized by the Archdiocese of New York, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012, at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • MItt Romney, Barack Obama, Timothy Dolan, Ann Romney

    President Barack Obama, left, talks with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, second left, as Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Ann Romney are seated at right as they attend the 67th annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, a charity gala organized by the Archdiocese of New York, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012, at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)