WILSHIRE BLVD — He explained the seeds of his project with such nonchalance that it seemed almost ordinary.
“My lawyer and I have been collecting thousands of jokes over the years,” said Bill Schwartz, longtime Santa Monica resident. “We decided one joke book was not unique.”
So they chose to write 12.
Schwartz’ series, ACME’s House of Humor, is now available in e-book format through the Amazon Kindle. The books are organized by themes ranging from “Trust Me, Lawyer Jokes” to “Totally Twisted Holiday Jokes.”
The brand of his collection draws inspiration from the fictitious company of Looney Tunes fame. He said he hopes readers will get the joke and understand the type of business he’s after.
“There’s a shortage of good quality jokes,” he said. “Rather than people combing through … jokes, we’ve done it.”
The plural “we” is a key element of his operation.
Despite his background in writing and the entertainment industry, Schwartz credits many friends, business associates and people from the community for branding, illustration and production advice.
“It takes Santa Monica to release 12 versions of joke books,” he said, with a laugh, referencing the old saying that it takes a village to raise a child. “I’ve lived here so long that I have lots of great friendships and history with these people.”
Employees at Printland on Wilshire Boulevard became his friends, after he would constantly come into the store and bounce ideas off them. After asking for feedback about the cover illustrations, he made changes. He even has their number saved in his phone book.
But he is as much about asking as he is about giving, said Alistair Nevell, an assistant sales associate at Staples on Wilshire Boulevard.
Schwartz initially came into the store to ask for help with the design of his website, and he and Nevell quickly became friends. As Nevell helped Schwartz with the graphic design of his website, Schwartz publicized Nevell’s work with graphic design and computer repair to his friends.
“He came in with a different attitude,” Nevell said. “It’s something that’s hard to find.”
Since the community was involved in the creation of the humorous enterprise, Schwartz said he wants to incorporate them into the rewards.
He’s planning to give 5 percent of his earnings to veterans recently returned from overseas combat. Though he doesn’t have an exact organization in mind, he knows he wants to make a local impact.
“I want to be more responsible to Santa Monica and the Palisades area,” Schwartz said. “If we can do our little part, I think it sends the right message.”
Those close to Schwartz are unsurprised by his latest undertaking.
“One thing that Bill really loves is humor,” said Mark Galanty, a longtime friend and business associate. “He’s been wanting to do stuff with humor for a really long time, and he loves to make people laugh.”
His decision to make the ACME series exclusively available as e-books was strictly business. With a difficult market for print products, Schwartz said he counted on the ease of different media platforms, as well as the lower cost to attract readers.
Schwartz plans to work with Google to increase downloads of the digital books, and is in talks with Barnes and Noble about expanding to the Nook.
Last weekend, he took his digital enterprise to the University of Southern California, where he publicized his House of Humor series at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.
Though he’s now exclusively e-book, Schwartz isn’t counting out the possibility of releasing miniature hardcover editions that can be sold as a set.
“We live in uneasy, weird times — everything’s getting too tense,” he said. “I think the American way is to laugh in the face of confusion and stress.”