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

We Had a Little Real Estate Problem: The Unheralded Story of Native Americans and Comedy We Had a Little Real Estate Problem: The Unheralded Story of Native Americans and Comedy by Kliph Nesteroff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nesteroff challenges the stereotypical depiction of Native Americans in the US and Canada as being stoic and serious with this history of comedy among Native Americans over the last few hundred years.  The book proves this fascinating slice of history, humor, and cultural exploration that many will find interesting.  Nesteroff works hard to draw the parallels of Native Americans and other marginalized groups that have leveraged humor to navigate their trauma and also re-introduce it to larger audiences, including the Black and Jewish experiences in North America. In particular, he draws out the mixture of violence, theft, and cultural destruction that US and Canadian governments and companies have exerted on Native Americans while simultaneously, considering how such things both influence many Native American comedians to become comedians as well as influence their content and how they bring that to the forefront. The book digs into deeper looks at how humor operates within Native American tribes and communities as well as how different Native American comedians view themselves: bring wider cultural understanding to non-Native American audiences, focusing inwardly on bringing comedy to Native American communities, just trying to be a comedian, and working as a bridge to bring together Native American and non-native audiences.  All of these ideas are slowly released in this book as the primary focus of it is on the actual comedians--to whom Nesteroff traces their origins, influenced, and intersections.  The two biggest names that Nesteroff focuses the most ink on are Will Rogers (whose Native American identity is often overlooked or unnoted) and Charlie Hill, for whom the title of the book originates from (a famous line of his). In many ways, Rogers is shown as a figure of assimilation (though his son, much less so) yet also able to buck tradition through that assimilation.  Hill by contrast is seen as someone whom so many other Native American comedians were inspired by and become comedians because he paved the way for them to feel they could be their full selves.  In total, the book covers a lot of interesting ground and leaves readers/listeners of a long list of comedians to go and watch afterward.

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