Charlie was known to many Native actors, singers, musicians, comedians, writers, radio folks — pretty much anyone involved in media. His ground-breaking stand-up routines broke color/race barriers on such programs as “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” “The Richard Pryor Show,” “Late Night With David Letterman” as a Native American comic who not only talked about “the plight” of the Native American — he regularly brought our funny and human side.
Arigon first met Charlie as a volunteer at one of the early First Americans in the Arts Awards in Beverly Hills. He encouraged her to follow her dream as a musician, even telling her once, “Hey, Buffy (St. Marie) and I were talking about you. She said — ‘We better keep an eye on her!’,” which was followed by a big, supportive laugh. Charlie also supported Arigon as a writer and actor, attending many of the performances of her one-woman show “The Red Road” at the Autry.
Arigon walked on air when Charlie agreed to be part of the cast of “Super Indian.” The radio series got a second greenlight for additional radio scripts, but sadly, those six stories didn’t make it to broadcast. However, Charlie lit up the stage as “Uncle Chester” and as a mysterious Oneida shaman who hummed “Begin the Beguine.” “Working with him was a dream,” marveled Arigon. “He helped me to mine the funny and add extra punch and bite to scripts.”
When Charlie was to be presented with a prestigious Diversity Award from the Screen Actors Guild, Arigon (along with Saginaw Grant) were tapped to present the award to him. “Because we had had so many interesting discussions about things not at all related to stand-up comedy, I thought it would be great fun to ‘roast’ Charlie onstage by displaying a bit of his off-stage interests. He loved comic books and baseball — just like me.”
Here, in it’s entirety, is the script Arigon wrote to present Charlie with his award.
Charlie Hill is a member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin. He’s the godfather of Native American stand-up, the only Native comedian to have guested with Johnny Carson, David Letterman and Jay Leno. A staff writer on the Roseanne show – and a series regular on “The Richard Pryor Show.” He’s a regular at the Comedy Store here in Los Angeles and no stranger to nightclubs and universities across the U.S. He’s the producer and host of the upcoming “Indian Comedy Slam” on Showtime Networks.
Here’s what you don’t know about Charlie Hill:
He was born in swaddling clothes, floating down Duck Creek in a Birchbark canoe, where his parents found him while harvesting wild rice. He spent his early years in Smallville, before becoming the resident stand-up comedian at the Daily Planet. When he wasn’t fighting crime with comedy, Charlie spent every April through September as the power slugger for the Milwaukee Brewers, with a career average of .305 and 755 home runs – until his record was eclipsed by Barry Bonds. However, Charlie’s name will never be followed by an asterisk. In a world where most people have forgotten Native American superstars like humorist Will Rogers or athletic phenomena Jim Thorpe, Charlie Hill is still here, reminding Native and non-Native people of the power of humor to heal the world.