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Virtual Event: LP² CUNY Graduate Center Presents ‘Unmasking Bias’ Speaker Program Will Focus on Navigating Through ‘Humorous Speech as Bigotry

December 7, 2022, 4 pm5 pm.

LP² at CUNY Graduate Center

365 Fifth Avenue

New York, NY 10016-4309

[email protected]


LP2 ‘Unmasking Bias’ Speaker Program Will Focus

on Navigating Through ‘Humorous Speech as Bigotry’ 


CUNY’s Paul Butterfield to share doctoral research in public webinar

explaining when “I’m only joking”  is—or isn’t—an acceptable excuse. 


NEW YORK, Nov. 18, 2022—The Lifelong Peer Learning Program (LP2), a program of the CUNY Graduate Center, will focus on the fraught mixture of humor and prejudice in the next program in its Diversity-Outreach Committee’s Unmasking Bias speaker series.


Paul Butterfield, Ph.D., is an  assistant professor of philosophy at Alfred University. He obtained a Ph.D. in Philosophy at The City University of New York Graduate Center, having previously received an M.Sc. (Postgraduate) in Philosophy and an M.A. (Undergraduate) in Philosophy & Politics, from the University of Glasgow, and is the author on humor ethics in the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Ethics and Aesthetics. He will share his research on “Humorous Speech as Bigotry” in a live streamed event at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 7.


Humor based on stereotypes has been a common feature of mass and social media as well as personal interactions. But, as Butterfield will discuss, what road map can be used to navigate the “ever-shifting guidelines for the ethos of humor” and what is the role of social identity as context? Even famous and once-acceptable stereotypical jokes and tropes have come to be viewed as cringeworthy, such as Ralph Kramden on The Honeymooners mock-threatening his wife with the line “To the moon, Alice” or Eddie Murphy’s gay jokes during his 1983 comedy special.

In discussing the shifting landscape for humor, Butterfield will explain how social identity, which is a person’s sense of who they are based on their group membership(s) and how they categorize others, also provides a marker for what is acceptable or unacceptable. As he notes, sometimes you might tell a joke, and members of your audience find it offensive. At other times, you might object to someone else’s joke, even though they themselves see nothing wrong with it. How are we to adjudicate these disagreements? Under what circumstances is “I’m only joking” a legitimate moral excuse? In this presentation, he will explore the factors at play in determining what we should, and should not, be permitted to say in jest.

Paul Butterfield is a recipient of a Fellowship for Racial and Social Justice established by the Board of the Institute for Education in Retirement, Inc., a nonprofit arm of the Lifelong Peer Learning Program, in recognition of LP2 having become affiliated with the CUNY Graduate Center in 2020.

To register for Paul Butterfield’s talk on Dec. 7 please click here.


About LP2

The Lifelong Peer Learning Program (LP2), which was founded in New York in 1962 as the first peer-based adult learning program in the U.S., has become the influential model for the expansion of adult learning to more than 500 campuses. Since 2020, it has been affiliated with the CUNY Graduate Center. Further information about LP2, including its offerings of study groups, history and community activities can be found on the LP2 website (www.lp2nyc.org).


About the Graduate Center of The City University of New York

The CUNY Graduate Center is a leader in public graduate education devoted to enhancing the public good through pioneering research, serious learning, and reasoned debate. The Graduate Center offers ambitious students nearly 50 doctoral and master’s programs of the highest caliber, taught by top faculty from throughout CUNY — the nation’s largest urban public university. Through its nearly 40 centers, institutes, initiatives, and the Advanced Science Research Center, the Graduate Center influences public policy and discourse and shapes innovation. The Graduate Center’s extensive public programs make it a home for culture and conversation.

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