Hank Azaria Makes Amends With Hari Kondabolu Over ‘The Simpsons’ Apu
Over five years after the release of Hari Kondabolu’s impactful and controversial documentary The Problem with Apu, Hank Azaria, Simpsons legend and renounced race impressionist, has finally smoothed things over with the stand-up comic in a comedic promotional video for Kondabolu’s new special, Vacation Baby.
In the endorsement, Azaria gives effusive praise to Kondabolu’s comedy, and we even get a short exchange between Azaria and Kondabolu that shows just how much the gap between them has been bridged since Azaria officially stepped away from the role of Apu on The Simpsons in 2020. Through that conversation, we see how Azaria shot the promo with the grace of the since-retired Kwik-E-Mart proprietor himself as he emptied the cash register with Snake’s pistol in his face.
The Problem with Apu analyzed the cultural impact of the controversial character from the perspective of a South Asian-American whose only experience seeing himself represented in any mainstream American media was watching The Simpsons and seeing a convenience store clerk voiced by a white actor. Kondabolu came to the conclusion that, considering the dearth of positive South Asians characters in television, the hyperbolically accented and heavily stereotyped Apu was a harmful and racist minstrelsy that needed to be rethought.
At the core of The Problem with Apu was Kondabolu’s quest to conduct an interview with Azaria over his performance as Apu. Azaria had gone on record saying that the character was born from an insulting impression he did during an argument with an “annoying” convenience store clerk, and, though he rejected Kondabolu’s request for an in-person meeting, he wrote an acknowledgement of the importance of the points Kondabolu was raising and voiced his support.
Apu was sidelined from The Simpsons following the release of Kondabolu’s documentary, and Azaria stated in multiple interviews during that time that he had no issue with stepping away from the character indefinitely. 20th Television Animation made the departure official in 2020, then in 2021, Azaria went on Dax Shepard’s podcast Armchair Expert and apologized for "my participation in racism, or at least in a racist practice or in structural racism, as it relates to showbusiness."
Now, Azaria and Kondabolu are collaborators, and the voice behind countless other beloved non-minstrel characters is an official endorser of Vacation Baby which he calls “honestly one of the greatest pieces of stand-up that I’ve ever seen in my life.” If he thinks it’s great now - according to his parting shot in the vid, he’s going to absolutely love the special when he actually watches it.