Jason Racz got the idea for his book 50 Jobs Worse Than Yours while walking down the street and seeing a guy dressed in a cell-phone suit handing out fliers. Racz could relate, to a degree. Unemployed at the time, he'd had his share of crappy jobs. "I worked in a grocery store handing out free samples of hummus," he says. "You feed something spicy to some Upper West Side women, and they will sue you."
Racz, 31, now a copywriter at BBDO, New York, published the book last year through Bloomsbury. It features comical photos and bios of 50 sorry workers—played, more often than not, by friends and co-workers of Racz's. Cellphone Salesperson made it in, as did Sherpa, Torah Scribe, B-List-Celebrity Assistant, Midget Tossing Tossee, and Adult Video Store Clerk. Racz soon came out with a second book, 50 Relatives Worse Than Yours, with help from BBDO colleague Alec Brownstein, and a franchise was born. 50 Relatives features such winners as the Slutty First Cousin, Slightly Racist Grandparent and Glory Days Dad. Again, Racz had help from his friends, including his nephew, who appears as the Child Who Was in a National TV Commercial. A third book, 50 Boyfriends Worse Than Yours, is due out in January. "Half the ad industry is in that one," says Racz.
The books, which are selling briskly at places like Urban Outfitters, have a few gross-out entries, but mostly Racz kept them clean. "I could have gone the 'feces route' and just been nasty, but I wanted to keep them interesting," he says. "This is publishing. You can't be too graphic. You do want to get on Oprah."