Having read a few cases in this area, I’ve been worried by some judges’ willingness to take every potentially defamatory statement piecemeal, characterize them individually as opinions or “obvious hyperbole,” and dismiss the underlying defamation case. A series of innuendoes, jokes, dismissals, and jibes can probably undermine a reputation far more effectively than one false fact.
Judges, in fact, have been trained by a generation of post-Sullivan jurisprudence to find any way possible either to dismiss defamation cases or to defang them so severely by the time they get to a jury that a plaintiff’s verdict is almost impossible to achieve.
Thus the only threat implied by a defamation lawsuit, and one that will hardly impress gazillionaires like Jerry Seinfeld, is the cost of defending one.
UPDATE: The suit against Mrs. Jerry was tossed, but the just-making-it-worse riffing by Jerry (“if you read history, many of the three-name people do become assassins. Mark David Chapman. And you know, James Earl Ray. So that’s my concern”), well, just made it worse.