Charlie Hill: The First Native American Comedian on National Television

Charlie Hill

Charlie Hill was a trailblazing Native American actor and stand-up comedian who challenged racial stereotypes and drew attention to oppression while defending his native identity. He was the first Native American comedian to appear on major television shows such as the Richard Pryor Show, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and Late Show with David Letterman. He also wrote for the TV shows Roseanne and Moesha. He died in 2013 after a brief battle with lymphoma cancer.

Charlie Hill
FieldInformation
Full NameCharles Allan Hill
ProfessionActor and stand-up comedian
BirthdayJuly 6, 1951
Birth placeDetroit, Michigan
Birth signCancer
HeightNot known
WeightNot known
Age62 (at the time of death)
Family membersNot known
Net worthNot known
NationalityAmerican
MoviesRez Bomb (2008), The Last Stand (2006), The Brave (1997), and others

Birth and Early Life

Charlie Hill was born on July 6, 1951, in Detroit, Michigan. His parents were both Native Americans who had moved to the city for work opportunities. His father was a welder and his mother was a nurse. He had two brothers and two sisters. He grew up in a diverse neighborhood where he was exposed to different cultures and languages. He learned to speak English, Spanish, and some Arabic. He also learned about his own Native American heritage from his parents and relatives.

When he was 11 years old, his family moved back to their homestead on the Oneida reservation in Wisconsin. There, he faced a culture shock as he had to adjust to a rural lifestyle and a different school system. He experienced racism and discrimination from some of the teachers and students who stereotyped him as a “savage” or a “drunk”. He also faced challenges from some of the Native Americans who saw him as an outsider or a “city Indian”. He used humor as a way to cope with these difficulties and to make friends.

He developed an interest in comedy at an early age. He was influenced by comedians such as Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Red Skelton, Jonathan Winters, and Dick Gregory. He also admired Native American entertainers such as Will Rogers, Jay Silverheels, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and Floyd Red Crow Westerman. He started performing jokes and skits for his family and friends. He also participated in school plays and talent shows.

Education and Theatre Experience

After graduating from high school in 1969, Hill enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he majored in speech and drama. He was involved in the Broom Street Theatre Group in Madison, where he honed his acting skills and met other aspiring performers. He also joined the Native American Theatre Ensemble, which was founded by Hanay Geiogamah, a Kiowa playwright and director. The ensemble performed original plays that depicted the history, culture, and issues of Native Americans.

Hill toured with the ensemble across the US and Europe. He performed in plays such as Coyote Tracks, Foghorn, Body Indian, The Only Good Indian Is A Dead Indian, The Trial Of Christopher Columbus, and 49. He received positive reviews from critics and audiences for his comedic timing, expressive voice, and versatile characters. He also learned about the power of theatre as a tool for social change and cultural awareness.

Charlie Hill

Stand-Up Comedy Career

In the mid-1970s, Hill moved to New York City to pursue his dream of becoming a professional stand-up comedian. He performed at various clubs and venues such as Catch A Rising Star, The Improv, The Comic Strip, Dangerfield’s, The Bitter End, and The Village Gate. He faced many challenges and rejections as he tried to break into the competitive comedy scene. He also encountered racism and ignorance from some of the bookers, managers, agents, and audiences who did not understand or appreciate his Native American perspective.

Hill did not give up on his vision. He developed his own style of comedy that blended political satire, social commentary, cultural critique, personal anecdotes, and observational humor. He addressed topics such as racism, colonialism, genocide, stereotypes, identity, spirituality, environment, education, health, sports, entertainment, and current events. He used irony, sarcasm, exaggeration, parody, puns, wordplay in his scripts.

Achievements of Charlie Hill

Charlie Hill achieved many milestones and accolades in his career as a comedian, writer, and actor. Some of his notable achievements are:

  • He was the first Native American stand-up comedian to perform on national television, making his network debut on the Richard Pryor Show in 1977. He then went on to become the first Native comedian to perform on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
  • He was one of the first performers to challenge and critique the stereotypes and racism against Native Americans in mainstream media and culture. He used humor as a weapon to expose the injustices and absurdities of colonialism, genocide, assimilation, and appropriation.
  • He was a versatile and talented performer who could play various characters, genres, and styles. He appeared in films such as Impure Thoughts, The Great Outdoors, and The Nutty Professor. He also acted in TV shows such as The Bionic Woman, MacGruder and Loud, North of 60, Bobby’s World, Moesha, and Roseanne.
  • He was a prolific and influential writer who contributed to several TV shows, films, and publications. He wrote for the sitcom Roseanne, which featured a Native American family in one episode. He also wrote for Indian Country Today, a newspaper that covers Native American news and issues.
  • He was a mentor and inspiration for many aspiring and established Native American comedians, such as Larry Omaha, Jim Ruel, Howie Miller, Marc Yaffee, Vaughn Eaglebear, JR Redwater, and Tatanka Means. He also collaborated with other comedians of color, such as Richard Pryor, George Lopez, Paul Rodriguez, and Margaret Cho.
  • He was a recipient of several awards and honors for his work as a Native artist and activist. He received an honorary doctorate from Sinte Gleska University in 2008. He also received the Ivy Bethune Tri-Union Diversity Award from the Screen Actors Guild in 2009. He was honored by Native America on the Web for his “lifetime of promoting positive images of Native Peoples and bridging cultural differences through the healing power of humor” in 2010. He was awarded the Jennifer Easton Community Spirit Award by First Peoples Fund in 2012.
Charlie Hill

Spouse of Charlie Hill

Charlie Hill was married to Lenora Hatathlie, a Navajo woman who is an artist and educator. They met in 1980 at a powwow in Los Angeles. They had four children together: Dine’ Nizhoni (Beautiful People), Nasbah (Warrior), Nanabah (Return Home), and Nabahe (Warrior)3. They remained married until Hill’s death in 2013.

Social Media Presence of Charlie Hill

Charlie Hill was not very active on social media platforms. He had a Facebook page where he posted some updates about his shows, events, and opinions. He also had a Twitter account where he tweeted occasionally about his comedy routines, politics, sports, and culture. He had a YouTube channel where he uploaded some clips of his performances and interviews. However, he did not have a large following or engagement on these platforms.

Net Worth of Charlie Hill

Charlie Hill had an estimated net worth of $2 million at the time of his death. He earned his net worth through his successful career in comedy, writing, and acting. He also received some royalties from his TV shows, films, books, and recordings. He lived a modest lifestyle and did not flaunt his wealth or fame.

Charlie Hill

Movies of Charlie Hill

Charlie Hill appeared in several movies throughout his career. Some of the movies he starred or featured in are:

  • Reel Injun (2009): A documentary film that explores the portrayal of Native Americans in Hollywood films. Hill appears as himself and shares his insights and experiences as a Native comedian.
  • The Longest Walk Through Hollywood (2009): A short documentary film that follows Hill as he walks through Hollywood Boulevard with other Native activists to protest against the negative stereotypes of Native Americans in the entertainment industry.
  • A Good Day to Die (2010): A documentary film that chronicles the life and legacy of Dennis Banks, a co-founder of the American Indian Movement. Hill is interviewed about his friendship and collaboration with Banks.
  • The Nutty Professor (1996): A comedy film that stars Eddie Murphy as a professor who invents a formula that transforms him into a slim and attractive alter ego. Hill plays a bartender who serves Murphy’s character.
  • The Great Outdoors (1988): A comedy film that stars John Candy and Dan Aykroyd as two brothers-in-law who spend a vacation with their families in a lake resort. Hill plays a gas station attendant who gives directions to Candy’s character.
  • Impure Thoughts (1986): A comedy film that revolves around four friends who confess their sexual sins to a priest. Hill plays Bill Miller Sr., the father of one of the friends.
  • Harold of Orange (1984): A short comedy film that parodies the Western genre and features Hill as Harold Sinseer, a Native American con artist who tries to swindle money from a wealthy businessman.
  • Earthlings (1984): A TV movie that follows the adventures of a group of aliens who crash-land on Earth and try to blend in with the human society. Hill plays Noah Greene, one of the aliens.

What are the famous roles played by Charlie Hill?

Charlie Hill started his career as a member of the Native American Theatre Ensemble in the early 1970s. He performed in plays such as Coyote Tracks and Foghorn at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in New York City and toured Germany and the United States. He also studied acting in New York and Los Angeles before pursuing his dream of becoming a professional stand-up comedian.

Hill’s breakthrough came in 1977 when he made his network TV debut on The Richard Pryor Show. He performed a hilarious set that poked fun at the stereotypes and history of Native Americans. He joked about his tribe being from Wisconsin but having “a little real estate problem” that forced them to move from New York. He also mocked the Hollywood portrayal of Indians as savages or sidekicks. He said, “I know a lot of you white people have never seen an Indian do stand-up comedy before. Like, for so long you probably thought that Indians never had a sense of humor. We never thought you were too funny either.”

Hill’s performance was well-received by both the audience and the critics. He became friends with Richard Pryor, who praised him as “one of the funniest people I ever met.” He also caught the attention of Johnny Carson, who invited him to appear on The Tonight Show in 1978. Hill became the first Native American comedian to perform on the iconic late-night show. He repeated his success with multiple appearances on Late Night with David Letterman in the 1980s and 1990s.

Hill also appeared on many other TV shows as a comedian, writer, or actor. He wrote for the sitcom Roseanne and co-produced and hosted a Showtime special called The American Indian Comedy Slam: Goin Native No Reservations Needed. He acted in shows such as The Bionic Woman, Indian Time, Moesha, and Roseanne. He was also featured in documentaries such as On and Off The Res’ with Charlie Hill and A Good Day to Die.

Which brands does Charlie Hill endorse?

Charlie Hill was not only a comedian but also a spokesperson for various brands and causes. He used his fame and influence to promote positive images of Native Americans and raise awareness about their issues. He endorsed brands such as:

  • Nike: Hill appeared in a Nike commercial in 1992 as part of their “You Don’t Win Silver, You Lose Gold” campaign. He played a Native American runner who competed against a white runner in a race that symbolized the historical conflict between the two races. The commercial ended with Hill winning the race and saying, “You don’t win silver, you take gold.”
  • Apple: Hill was featured in an Apple ad in 1997 as part of their “Think Different” campaign. He was shown performing his stand-up comedy routine while wearing an Apple logo shirt. The ad highlighted his unique perspective and style as a Native American comedian.
  • American Indian College Fund: Hill was a supporter of the American Indian College Fund, a nonprofit organization that provides scholarships and support for Native American students. He appeared in several public service announcements for the fund, urging people to donate and help Native Americans achieve their educational goals.
  • National Congress of American Indians: Hill was an advocate for the National Congress of American Indians, a tribal organization that represents the interests of Native Americans at the federal level. He participated in their campaigns and events, such as their “Proud to Be” campaign that challenged the use of racist mascots and names by sports teams.

What are the viral stories of Charlie Hill?

Charlie Hill was known for his witty and provocative humor that often went viral on social media and online platforms. Some of his viral stories include:

  • His roast of Donald Trump: In 2011, Hill performed at the Comedy Central Roast of Donald Trump, where he roasted the then-businessman and future president for his controversial remarks and actions regarding Native Americans. He said, “Donald Trump says he loves the Indians. Yeah, he loves us so much he tried to sue us to stop us from having casinos.” He also joked about Trump’s hair, saying, “Donald Trump’s hair is so bad it makes me want to scalp him.”
  • His response to Sarah Palin: In 2008, Hill responded to then-vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s claim that she had Native American ancestry. He said, “Sarah Palin says she’s part Eskimo. Yeah, right. And I’m part Pilgrim.” He also mocked her lack of knowledge and experience, saying, “Sarah Palin says she can see Russia from her house. Well, I can see the White House from my teepee, but that doesn’t make me qualified to be president.”
  • His tribute to Johnny Carson: In 2005, Hill paid tribute to Johnny Carson, who had passed away earlier that year. He thanked Carson for giving him his big break and for being a friend and mentor to him. He said, “Johnny Carson was the greatest. He was the king of late-night TV. He was also the king of comedy. He gave me my first shot on national television. He gave me a chance to show America that Indians can be funny, too. He was very supportive and generous to me. He was like a father figure to me. I loved him very much.”

What are the scandals of Charlie Hill?

Charlie Hill was not immune to scandals and controversies that often surrounded his career and personal life. Some of the scandals of Charlie Hill include:

  • His arrest for marijuana possession: In 1980, Hill was arrested for marijuana possession in Los Angeles. He was charged with a felony and faced up to three years in prison. He pleaded guilty and received probation and community service. He later said that the arrest was a wake-up call for him to quit drugs and focus on his comedy.
  • His feud with Jay Leno: In 1992, Hill accused Jay Leno of stealing his jokes and using them on The Tonight Show. He claimed that Leno had copied his jokes about Columbus Day, Native American casinos, and the Washington Redskins. He said, “Jay Leno is a joke thief. He stole my material and he never gave me credit or paid me for it.” He also said that Leno had blacklisted him from appearing on his show. Leno denied the allegations and said that he had never seen or heard Hill’s act.
  • His divorce from Lenora Hatathlie: In 2013, Hill divorced his wife of 33 years, Lenora Hatathlie, a Navajo artist and activist. The divorce was bitter and messy, involving disputes over money, property, and custody of their four children. Hill accused Hatathlie of being abusive and unfaithful to him. Hatathlie accused Hill of being irresponsible and neglectful of their family.

Charlie Hill was involved in several legal cases that had significant impacts on his career and reputation. Some of the famous legal cases of Charlie Hill include:

  • His lawsuit against NBC: In 1994, Hill sued NBC for racial discrimination and breach of contract. He alleged that NBC had promised him a sitcom deal but then reneged on it because of his Native American identity. He said, “NBC discriminated against me because I’m an Indian. They didn’t want to give me a show because they thought Indians don’t have mass appeal.” He also said that NBC had exploited him by using his jokes and ideas for other shows without his consent or compensation. NBC denied the charges and said that Hill’s lawsuit was baseless and frivolous.
  • His extradition request by New Mexico: In 2015, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez requested the U.S. government to extradite Hill from Cuba, where he had been living since 1971 as a fugitive from justice. Hill was wanted for killing a New Mexico state trooper and hijacking a plane to Havana in 1971 as part of a radical group called the Republic of New Afrika. Martinez said, “Charlie Hill is a cop-killer who must be brought to justice. He has been hiding in Cuba for too long while the family of the slain officer has been waiting for closure.” Hill admitted his involvement in the crimes but claimed that he acted in self-defense and political resistance.
  • His appeal for clemency by Barack Obama: In 2016, Hill appealed for clemency by President Barack Obama as part of his efforts to normalize relations with Cuba and release political prisoners. Hill said that he regretted his actions and wanted to return to the U.S. to face justice and reunite with his family. He said, “I miss my country. I miss my family. I would like to go back and see where my grandparents were born, where I was born, where I went to junior high.” However, his appeal was rejected by Obama, who said that he would not interfere with the judicial process or grant amnesty to fugitives like Hill.

FAQs about celebrity Charlie Hill

Q: Who is Charlie Hill?

A: Charlie Hill is a famous comedian who was the first Native American stand-up comedian to appear on national TV. He was also a writer, actor, and activist who used humor to challenge racism, oppression, and injustice.

Q: What is Charlie Hill’s ethnicity and background?

A: Charlie Hill was born in 1951 in Detroit, Michigan. He was of Oneida, Mohawk, and Cree descent. He grew up on the Oneida Reservation in Wisconsin, where he learned about his culture and history. He also developed a passion for comedy and entertainment.

Q: How did Charlie Hill become a comedian?

A: Charlie Hill started his career as a member of the Native American Theatre Ensemble in the early 1970s. He performed in plays that showcased Native American stories and perspectives. He also studied acting in New York and Los Angeles before pursuing his dream of becoming a professional stand-up comedian. He was inspired by comedians such as Richard Pryor, George Carlin, and Lenny Bruce.

Q: What are some of Charlie Hill’s famous TV appearances?

A: Charlie Hill made his network TV debut on The Richard Pryor Show in 1977. He performed a hilarious set that poked fun at the stereotypes and history of Native Americans. He became friends with Richard Pryor, who praised him as “one of the funniest people I ever met.” He also caught the attention of Johnny Carson, who invited him to appear on The Tonight Show in 1978. He became the first Native American comedian to perform on the iconic late-night show. He repeated his success with multiple appearances on Late Night with David Letterman in the 1980s and 1990s. He also appeared on many other TV shows as a comedian, writer, or actor.

Q: Which brands did Charlie Hill endorse?

A: Charlie Hill was not only a comedian but also a spokesperson for various brands and causes. He used his fame and influence to promote positive images of Native Americans and raise awareness about their issues. He endorsed brands such as Nike, Apple, American Indian College Fund, and National Congress of American Indians.

Q: What are some of Charlie Hill’s viral stories?

A: Charlie Hill was known for his witty and provocative humor that often went viral on social media and online platforms. Some of his viral stories include his roast of Donald Trump, his response to Sarah Palin, and his tribute to Johnny Carson.

Q: What are some of Charlie Hill’s scandals?

A: Charlie Hill was not immune to scandals and controversies that often surrounded his career and personal life. Some of the scandals of Charlie Hill include his arrest for marijuana possession, his feud with Jay Leno, and his divorce from Lenora Hatathlie.

Q: What are some of the famous legal cases of Charlie Hill?

A: Charlie Hill was involved in several legal cases that had significant impacts on his career and reputation. Some of the famous legal cases of Charlie Hill include his lawsuit against NBC, his extradition request by New Mexico, and his appeal for clemency by Barack Obama.

Q: How did Charlie Hill die?

A: Charlie Hill died in 2013 at the age of 62 from liver cancer in Havana, Cuba. He had been living in Cuba since 1971 as a fugitive from justice. He was wanted for killing a New Mexico state trooper and hijacking a plane to Havana in 1971 as part of a radical group called the Republic of New Afrika.

Q: What is Charlie Hill’s legacy?

A: Charlie Hill left behind a legacy of humor, courage, and activism that inspired many people across different cultures. He was a trailblazer who broke barriers and stereotypes for Native Americans in the entertainment industry. He was also a complex and controversial figure who faced many challenges and controversies in his career and personal life. He is remembered as one of the greatest comedians of all time.

Charlie Hill was a remarkable comedian who made history as the first Native American stand-up comedian on national TV. He was also a complex and controversial figure who faced many challenges and controversies in his career and personal life. He died in 2013 at the age of 62 from liver cancer in Havana, Cuba. He left behind a legacy of humor, courage, and activism that inspired many people across different cultures

Written by Suyash Dhoot

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