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Publisher's Summary

A Best Book of 2021 by NPR and Esquire

From Kliph Nesteroff, “the human encyclopedia of comedy” (VICE), comes the important and underappreciated story of Native Americans and comedy.

It was one of the most reliable jokes in Charlie Hill’s stand-up routine: “My people are from Wisconsin. We used to be from New York. We had a little real estate problem.”

In We Had a Little Real Estate Problem, acclaimed comedy historian Kliph Nesteroff focuses on one of comedy’s most significant and little-known stories: how, despite having been denied representation in the entertainment industry, Native Americans have influenced and advanced the art form.

The account begins in the late 1880s, when Native Americans were forced to tour in Wild West shows as an alternative to prison. (One modern comedian said it was as “if a Guantanamo detainee suddenly had to appear on X-Factor”.) This is followed by a detailed look at the life and work of seminal figures such as Cherokee humorist Will Rogers and Hill, who in the 1970s was the first Native American comedian to appear on The Tonight Show

Also profiled are several contemporary comedians, including Jonny Roberts, a social worker from the Red Lake Nation who drives five hours to the closest comedy club to pursue his stand-up dreams; Kiowa-Apache comic Adrianne Chalepah, who formed the touring group the Native Ladies of Comedy; and the 1491s, a sketch troupe whose satire is smashing stereotypes to critical acclaim. As Ryan Red Corn, the Osage member of the 1491s, says: “The American narrative dictates that Indians are supposed to be sad. It’s not really true and it’s not indicative of the community experience itself … Laughter and joy is very much a part of Native culture.” 

Featuring dozens of original interviews and the exhaustive research that is Nesteroff’s trademark, We Had a Little Real Estate Problem is a powerful tribute to a neglected legacy.

©2021 Kliph Nesteroff. All rights reserved. (P)2021 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Amazing book!

Indigenous peoples and comedy. It's something that we assume don't go together due to stoic stereotypes that have been fed to us for generations. This book will change that perception. Using comedian Charlie Hill as touchstone throughout the book Kliph Nesteroff (Author and narrator) takes you on a, sometimes difficult, journey that will open your eyes and possibly upset you. But you'll also laugh a little too. it's a journey well worth taking.

6 people found this helpful

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Wish I could have given Charlie Hill a hug

Loved it. I wish I could have seen Charlie Hill in person. I looked him up . I wish the country would learn more about Native Nations. The book made it very personal to me and it touched me to my core.

5 people found this helpful

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stories every person needs to hear

everyone needs to hear these stories. as a white man I must be reminded from time to time of the privilege I that was not earned but taken. through comedy we hear the history of the first Nations.

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As a fan of stand up, this was a great extension of my learning both of comedy and of native peoples lives in the 20th century.

The story of Charlie Hill stands out among many different up-and-coming comedians who share a common experience of native or first nation Americans. It has wet my appetite to learn more about the 19th and 20th century native peoples. A friend of mine has a son who works for the OAS. I can’t wait to talk to him about some things that he probably doesn’t know.

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buy the book!!

laughed and learned. it made me laugh out loud and cry. I'd you like comedy and learning buy the book!

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A thought provoker

The dazzle of unknown names was difficult at first. Then I saw it as part of the theme; I am not American Indian. This book makes me curious about my own predilection on what I feel is funny and why. I resolve to be more inquiring about all cultural humor. A few more audios of the jokes would have enhanced my understanding. The book title is oerfect to me

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favorite read of the year

I learned so much. It's more than just a history of comedy. It's also a great history of 20th century government/Native American relations and policies, including horrifying stuff about residential schools. And it's also about the oppressive power of stereotypes.

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Must read!

Great historical review of Native comedians and a real overview of the key players and comedy through the years. Very eye opening and insightful.

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Wonderful

So many wonderful things in this book - cultural info, emotion, history
We as a people are all better for having native comedians

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well researched... and well brought to the light

Kliph Nesteroff and his rrsearch make this 5 stars,well done Kiliph. Kliph this is so good

2 people found this helpful