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Publisher's Summary

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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  • Gregg Anderson
  • 2021-03-22

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.

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  • Silvia
  • 2021-02-24

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.

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  • Tommy Boy
  • 2021-03-09

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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  • Robert
  • 2021-04-04

A fasincating history

Fascinating book and very well read by the author. Like Nesteroff's The Comedians it places the world of comedians in context. Nesteroff's book alternates from contemporary comedians to looking at the history of Native American humor and the rise of comics such as Will Rogers and Charlie Hill. And like The Comedians the book makes you want to hear more of the performers' work.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2021-03-21

History with Jokes

Interesting survey of twentieth century Native American history through the rise and fall of a succession of native comics

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  • Ibakedeskimo
  • 2021-03-03

Great listen

This has got to be the most comprehensive history of native comedy I’ve read/listened to. Being a native comedian making waves in the game, I’m a little disappointed I wasn’t asked to be in the book but I understand... I have more of a Chong appeal than a native one. Highly recommend this book and shout out to big man Jonny R for making it in the book