Jerry Seinfeld uses free speech defense in cookbook lawsuit

Humor is one of those things that is totally subjective and completely open for debate. A lot of people think that in order for something to be truly funny, it has to be risky or offensive. And while I don’t agree with that, safe humor is never quite as good as the jokes that walk a much finer line.

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld seems to really be straddling that line lately. Over the last year he and wife Jessica have been embroiled in a heated legal battle over a cookbook, Deceptively Delicious, that Jessica appears to have blatantly plagiarized from author Missy Chase Lapine’s The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids’ Favourite Meal. Lapine has sued the Seinfields – but not just for plagiarism.

Though at the time she hadn’t made a single comment about the whole debacle, Seinfeld thought it appropriate to mock her mercilessly on late night television and make Lapine out to be some sort of whackjob; making some stupid joke that, “If you read history, many of the three-name people do become assassins.” In addition to the ideas and the recipes, Celebitchy pointed out that Jessica also stole some of the “personal” stories from Chase Lapine’s book.

The Seinfelds are also being sued for slander, and are using just about the stupidest defense strategy I’ve ever heard of.

Jerry Seinfeld insisted yesterday he ought to be the master of his own comic domain. Seinfeld didn’t slander the woman who accused his wife of ripping off her cookbook, he said in legal papers filed yesterday in Manhattan federal court. He was just mining the legal system for laughs – and supporting the right of standup comedians to do the same, he said.

Seinfeld cited several episodes of the “show about nothing” where he mocked frivolous lawsuits – including an episode where Kramer wins free coffee for life in a court settlement because he got burned on gourmet roast. His lawyers, who are trying to get the defamation suit against him tossed, pointed out that his flick “Bee Movie” also has a plot that revolved around a silly suit.

In the movie, a bumblebee voiced by the comic sues honey manufacturers for exploiting bees. And rock star Sting is hauled in as a witness. Seinfeld was hit with the slander suit because he called author Missy Chase Lapine, who claims his wife, Jessica, copied her cookbook, a “wacko” and “mentally unhinged celebrity stalker” on David Letterman’s show. Lapine, author of “Sneaky Chef,” is suing Jessica, too. Lawyers for Seinfeld insisted his suit is no joke – because the First Amendment protects humor. And the attorneys said allowing Lapine’s suit to go forward would make it impossible for other comedians to get laughs out of lawsuits.

[From the New York Post]

First off, the utterly ridiculous ideas from your not-all-that-funny-after-all show don’t actually hold any ground in the court of law. And while free speech should be protected, there are also slander laws for a reason, and Ms. Lapine is in no way treading over Seinfeld’s free speech by insisting that he not needlessly attack her.

Missy Chase Lapine would look like the victim here no matter what. But it’s truly shocking to see the way the Seinfelds have come after her. Jessica stole the idea for her book. Then instead of apologizing or doing whatever version of “making it right” she could think of, her husband goes on national television to tell the world that Lapine is crazy. Again, keep in mind that although other people had made a lot of comments about the two books at this point, Missy Chase Lapine had acted with utter decorum and dignity and hadn’t said one single word.

That takes more restraint than most people could ever summon. So it’s not as though the Seinfelds were defending themselves or responding to anything Lapine had ever said. They were just using this poor woman – who they’d already taken advantage of in a terrible way – to try to get a few more seconds of publicity (and money) for themselves. Their behavior is utterly disgusting, and calling it a free speech issue degrades true free speech arguments. I hope they lose a ton of money.

Here’s a side-by-side book comparison that Celebitchy did. Header of Jerry and Jessica at the Tribeca Film Festival in April. Images thanks to PR Photos.

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13 Responses to “Jerry Seinfeld uses free speech defense in cookbook lawsuit”

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  1. Lauri says:

    Do they not have enough money? I mean, was it really necessary to plagiarize someone else’s work? Did they really think no one would notice?

    They should just pay the woman what she wants and move on.

  2. Syko says:

    I hope the three-named person takes them to the cleaners’.

    In addition to the few three-named assassins, there are quite a few three-namers who did outstanding things for the betterment of society. George Washington Carver, Edgar Allan Poe, John Quincy Adams, Anne Rivers Siddons, George Bernard Shaw, Martin Luther King, just to name a few.

    Jerry is just barely funny at best. He’s not being at all funny in this. As for it being free speech – didn’t we give that all up with the Patriot Act anyway?

  3. geronimo says:

    Lauri, it’s not in the least about money. This is loathsome Jerry at his arrogant and egotistic best, demonstrating his total disregard for other people’s feeling and rights and thinking he can get away with it because of who he is and the size of his wallet (which is btw now in indirect proportion to his talent.)

    If ever someone was living off past glories, it’s this comedy-free joke. I fervently hope that he and his equally arrogant thief of a wife get taken to the cleaners.

  4. daisy424 says:

    Comedy my ass. I used to like him until I read this, hope he loses and big.
    Didn’t he just make a deal with Microsoft?

    Agree Geronimo

  5. Anon says:

    I hope they get taken to the cleaners in the worst way

  6. vdantev says:

    Who uses cookbooks? Who are these people ?

  7. Stoopit says:

    Ironically, Seinfeld’s show about nothing features an episode about his character trying to prevent Kathy Griffin from insulting him in her act with a cease and desist order.

  8. Goddess711 says:

    Defamation of Character & Slander – are they really covered by the first ammendment?
    Should it be reverse as in the public should be protected from idiots thinking they’re funny? Maybe that’s something Seinfeld should take up with his Hasbeen Therapy Group- “Why am I the only person who thinks I’m funny?”

  9. czarina says:

    The sad part is that, legally, he will probably get away with it. Because Missy Chaise Lapine is likely to be considered a public figure as a published author, and public figures ARE targets for comedians.
    I totally agree with you, geronimo, that this is nothing more than Sienfeld being an arrogant jerk and using his position to defame this poor woman.
    I HOPE he gets nailed for it in court, but (as I work in a legal office), I could easily see it going the other way.
    Nevertheless, it is Jerry who has made himself look bad, and if his wife ripped off this woman’s work, then hopefully, when the case goes to court, Lapine will have the last laugh.

  10. kate says:

    his wife looks mean. and i’ve seen her cookbook at the bookstore & it’s a stupid idea no matter where it came from: “hiding” healthy stuff in kids’ food is setting them up for unhealthy eatitng habits later on because they won’t think about the nutritional aspect of food. plus, who has the kind of time to play these games and make all this special food, besides celebrity wives? just eat it, kids and stop complaining!

  11. Squishy1 says:

    Hmmmmm…and wasn’t this the same person that broke her 1st husband’s heart by leaving him (if I’, not mistaken) about a month after she married him because she met Jerry Seinfeld and the 2 of them ran off together?! These 2 shmucks deserve each other and will get their comeuppance in the end!!

  12. enchantress says:

    ‘BLECH’ to Seinfeld and his ugly look-a-like wife :evil:
    They may have a lot of money but they sure have no class.

  13. Liana says:

    Oh sweet jesus all notorious criminals are known by all three names! Because that’s what appears in the law reports so that the courts can more easily distinguish between two or more “Robert Browms” for example. It’s standard procedure.