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Roxanne Reviews "We Had a Little Real Estate Problem"

Kliph Nesteroff’s interesting upbringing in a Russian pacifist community in British Columbia is nearly as much of a mouthful as his new non-fiction book’s title: We Had a Little Real Estate Problem: The Unheralded Story of Native Americans & Comedy.

Kliph, a true classic movie and comedy fan, honed his concern for the underrepresented on the streets of Vancouver, Canada, working as, for all practical purposes, a social worker. Here, he judiciously chronicles the plights of several Native American comedians and entertainers. That’s the nutshell description of a well researched history lesson of how horrendously Native Americans have been treated across time in the entertainment industry. Certainly not new news, but like any harmful racist deed, one that must be remembered.

Figures who are the focus of several chapters are Will Rogers, both Senior and Junior. The former being a Mark Twainesque political witticist and the latter jumping into politics as an American Congressman. Both men used their wit and intelligence to skewer and wrangle politicians to treat Native Americans as equal citizens. Nesteroff pulls no punches in his honesty of some Native Americans who wrongly punched down; Rogers, Sr. being one, who caused a boycott of Gulf Oil after his use of a racist slur on a radio broadcast.

Many of the stories have an uplifting against all odds conclusion. Charlie Hill, for instance, gained fame in comedy as the first Native American comedian to not only land late night TV shows, such as Richard Pryor’s 1970’s Network show, as well as Letterman and Leno’s, but even more importantly, to garner non-stereotypical choices that were respected in the entertainment industry.

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