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We Had a Little Real Estate Problem: The Unheralded Story of Native Americans and Comedy

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  169 ratings  ·  58 reviews
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 his
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published February 16th 2021 by Simon Schuster
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Feb 17, 2021 added it
I received a gifted digital copy of this book from the publisher. I really enjoyed it at first! I was expanding my knowledge not only in regards to Indigenous comedians but in many other ways as well.

Although Nesteroff is not Indigenous, I felt he gave Indigenous folks a lot of space to share their uninterrupted thoughts & experiences.

Now onto the less favourable aspects. I believe discussing anti-Blackness in the behaviour of Indigenous folks & communities is so important however I believe the
Zach Freking-Smith
Nov 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Originally published here

Kliph Nesteroff's rundown of Native comedy is both heartwarming and heartbreaking

DISCLAIMER: I am not Native American. So, please, if you are and I have said something inappropriate, please send me a message so I can correct it. I'm learning.

Here I am, wanting to read a nice book about comedy to calm me down during the election. I LOVE stand-up comedy. It's one of my relaxations. Nothing calms me down faster than laughter. The title alone: We Had a Little Real Estate Pr
Cassi J
Feb 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is a good start on learning about Native Americans in comedy dating back to the 1840s. I particularly liked that the book gave space for current working and up-and-coming Native American comedians to voice their experiences pursing comedy.
Enid Wray
Feb 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
Brilliant history I knew nothing at all about (Disclosure: I don’t partake of stand-up comedy). Compelling read. Impeccably well researched. This is an important title well worth the read. I have only a few, relatively minor, criticisms...

The author does assume - in places - that the reader knows basic American/Indigenous history - which, as a Canadian reader, I did not always have. I am fairly well versed in Canadian/Indigenous historical events, but, for instance, I have never heard of the ‘Tr
Michael Reilly
Feb 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is a clever idea for a book and it is very well done. It is a history of Native American stand up comedians.

The most interesting part is Nesteroff's stories about the Native American stand up comedians who never became big stars but who made a living.

Many tribes hold annual pow-wows. They are tribal celebrations and get togethers. The pow-wow emcee is usually a comedian. Sammy Tone-Kei White was the king of pow-wow emcees. He did hundreds of pow-wows over fifty years. His tapes and records

I picked up this audiobook purely because it was available at the time I needed a new audiobook through my library. It was fascinating.

I didn't know anything about this history. I didn't know that Native American prisoners were used to staff Wild West shows. I often did wonder why well known chiefs went on those tours after they were captured. Now I know it was because they didn't really have a choice.

I did not know that Will Rogers was Cherokee. (The book does go into the whitewashing of his
Jess Witkins
Mar 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
"We Had a Little Real Estate Problem" is the popular culture, indigenous history lesson we all need. (Well, at least us white folks cause we're the oblivious ones.)

Spanning the last 100 years, the book mainly chronicles Oneida native Charlie Hill, known to be the first Native American stand-up comic. The book title comes from his most famous joke. "My people are from Wisconsin. We used to be from New York. We had a little real estate problem." But spread throughout the 300+ pages are years of h
Apr 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
The atrocities against the Native peoples of America are well documented. The stoic Indian is a symbol which has transcended all areas of culture. Nesteroff blows apart this image in We had a Little Real Estate Problem - a compilation of Native comedy, both past and present. This book was an amazing slice of modern culture which I’d recommend to all.

Nesteroff balances past Native comedians, with vignettes of current comedians trying to break out into the mainstream. He explores the dichotomy of
Mar 13, 2021 rated it really liked it
Charlie Hill's stand-up act includes the following lines: " My people are from Wisconsin. We used to be from New York. We had a little real estate problem." Kliph Nesteroff riffs off Charlie Hill's comedic life into a broad overview of Native American comedy in this book.

Kliph Nesteroff shotguns his way through Native American comedy with each short chapter providing a glimpse of a different comedian or historical period. He introduces unknown comedians, such as Jonny Roberts, lesser known group
Nov 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is a fascinating look at Native comedians and the history of Native people in the US.

The book entwines history of Native people in entertainment and the atrocities committed against them across the country. It highlights how media has played a role in shaping what non-Native people think about Native people and how little attention is given to Native comedians by mainstream outlets.

It's an informative and in
James (JD) Dittes
Mar 14, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2021, native-america
We Had a Little Real Estate Problem is a book that truly has it all: it's an introduction to an array of Native American comics dating back 100 years (or more, when one considers Buffalo Bill's traveling circus and its corral of indentured native talent); it's an overview of Native history, right up to Standing Rock; and it's a work that puts Native artistry front and center.

Nesteroff intesperces his history of major talents like Will Rodgers, Charlie Hill, Williams and Ree, and the comedy troup
Apr 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
Overall a really good blend of history, jokes, and politics.

“We could never understand why Mexico wasn’t just crazy about us, for we had always had their good will, and oil and coffee and minerals, at heart.” -Will Rogers

“When you say ‘white man,’ it’s always singular. The white man this. The white man that. I’m wondering—who is this guy? Because he’s screwing it up for everybody.” -Charlie Hill

“You’re going to be confronted with the source of your social power. But don’t worry—after this you’ll
Grace W
Mar 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
(c/p from my review on TheStoryGraph) Insightful, funny, and heartbreaking all in one. This book taught me a lot, not just about the history of comedy but the history of native people in the entertainment industry in general. It is such an interesting take on the tradition and a deep dive into why native comedy works so well. I think this book is one that will stay with me and a good example of when non-fiction really works well.

TW for this book include: Genocide, Rape, Murder, Suicide, Death (i
Apr 04, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: native-american
A book about native American comedians, starting with Will Rogers, who was very popular but didn't emphasize his native heritage. The book was strangely organized, sort of chronologically, but not very logically. What I wanted most was to hear why native humor matters, what makes it different. We got a little of that about page 200. I think the book would have been far better if it had dealt with these important and larger questions in a more focused way. I did like the very native way in which ...more
Jami Sailor
Mar 07, 2021 rated it liked it
A history of, and current look at Native American’s contributions to show business in general and comedy specifically. Investigates depictions of Native Americans in movies and television and the cyclical nature of trotting out the worn stereotypes. Looks at the role humor and comedy plays in Native Americans lives and looks at Indigenous comics trying to make it in comedy today.

The author is a white person who has written about the history of comedy in the past. I appreciate how the author sta
Mar 19, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, comedy
More than just a retreading of the past, Nesteroff traces these comedic roots to the flowering of Native comedy today. At the same time, he fills in around the spotlit comedy narratives with the context of past and present atrocities and attacks that shaped the comics and communities that came through them. The mix of personality, career ups and downs, and hilarious stand-up bits is a delight. It’s a treat to meet comedians and stories that mainstream audiences aren’t introduced to often enough ...more
Kim Delie
Apr 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
What a fascinating read.

This is non-fiction and chronicles the almost non-existant history of Native American comedians. It also showcases up and comers.

Yet, it is so, so much more. I am an IOTA Menominee and thought I "understood" the Indian culture to a point. After all, my family regularly went to the Rez when I was a kid. I have been to pow wows. I am proud of my heritage.

Well, I quickly learned how ignorant and blinded I truly am.

It's a real eye opener. A history lesson; a Current Events l
Apr 07, 2021 rated it really liked it
A unique mix of American history (with a number of unsavory, shameful moments), insights into Indigenous culture past and present, and an entertaining look at the world of comedy and Native Americans. They say comedy and tragedy are two sides of same coin, and this book certainly embodies that - a tough look at our nation's darker moments, but also a lively and funny exploration of comedians and their craft. Recommend in audio - many of the jokes shared probably benefit from hearing them aloud v ...more
Nancy Haddock
Apr 16, 2021 rated it liked it
Three and a half stars, and well-worth the read, even if it was not what I expected. Hard truths about how Native Americans have been used and abused in show business, and been grossly misrepresented. The misuse is all too sadly not new, but I had either never thought about or never realized how very much stereotypes have persisted and been fostered. Specifically the humorless Indian, all stoic and serious. Made me think of the line in Dances with Wolves to the effect of the Sioux having a gentl ...more
Sean Whatshisface
Mar 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
I honestly got choked up with the chapter on Charlie Hill's passing, feeling the weight of such a historical figure leaving us. I wish I had known more and could have appreciated his work while he was alive, but I'm glad that I had the chance to familiarize myself with newer native talents and I'll be able to follow them as they grow and, hopefully, flourish. We owe it to them to listen and support them. ...more
Mar 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Steve Martin’s cover blurb said it best. This book is a good, hard, fascinating, funny read. I rec it to everyone, the audio is good but I wish I had gotten the print so I could flip back and forth. If I taught American History I would put this on my required reading list! I esp rec this to anyone who is hungering for accessible history writing, nonfiction writing, anyone who wants to learn more about some of the most interesting comedians working today, and any fans and/or makers of comedy.
Chris, a librarian
Mar 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I read books about comedy history, but a book about Native Americans in comedy was a subject I knew virtually nothing about. Funny and heartbreaking and wonderfully put together by Nesteroff, this is a must read for fans of comedy history and Native American history in general. I also supplemented my reading by looking up clips of Charlie Hill, Williams and Ree, and the 1491s.
Mar 27, 2021 rated it really liked it
It felt like it was taking me forever to read this book since I was constantly putting it down to look up youtube videos of these performers, many of whom I had never heard of. Nesteroff did a masterful job of not only telling the history of Native Americans in mainstream comedy, but also introducing readers to contemporary comedians.
Mar 28, 2021 rated it liked it
Not quite what I was expecting...more on the personalities, and the relationship of Native American/First Nation people to comedy, with the backdrop of several hundred years of crap behavior by the governments of the US and Canada. It's really a social history of this particular aspect of culture, and not a book to read hoping to be amused. ...more
John Gastil
This work of narrative nonfiction weaves together historical and contemporary humor with the experience of Native Americans. This is not a "joke book," but rather a history of how modern Native standup developed in the U.S. It's a tale of heroes and villains, brutal oppression and resistance. More subtly, it's a history of standup comedy itself, but through the lens of the Native experience. ...more
April Hobbs
Mar 31, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This was a really insightful read and it expanded my knowledge of Native Americans in comedy. I had heard of Charlie Hill before but now I have a whole slew of comics to look up. It really balanced the seriousness of the topic and then there were some lightheartedness in the book as well. I know there is still a lot to learn but this was enlightening and I would recommend it to others.
Julia DeBarrioz
Apr 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This was super interesting, funny, and at times heartbreaking. I listened to the audiobook version, which I recommend, the narrator was on point. It's not only a review of Native American comedy, but also a history lesson covering things about the colonization of the US and Canada that we never learned in school, but that every American should definitely know. ...more
Samantha Glasser
I can't say I would have been terribly interested in reading this book had it not been for the fact that Nesteroff's other book on comedians was excellent and his interviews on the Gilbert Gottfried podcast are informative and fun. I look forward to reading this. ...more
Mar 12, 2021 rated it it was ok
Two starts for the chapters I did read (the first few historical ones and all the Will Rogers chapters). I just couldn't get into the more current stuff. But it has sparked my interest to find more books on Native American history. ...more
Mar 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An eye opening read

Nesteroff presents a history of Native Americans that few of us are aware of. It is an amazing book, filled with the true spirit and soul of these incredibly talented people. As solid a piece of historical writing as I've read in some times.
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