What: A follow-up to the recent Simpsons controversy surrounding the Indian-American character Apu.
Who: Hank Azaria, Stephen Colbert.
Why we care: Last year, comedian Hari Kondabolu made a heartfelt documentary about growing up Indian-American in the shadow of Apu. (The experience apparently involved a lot of people taunting him with “Thank you, come again” in a Peter Sellers-inflected mock-Indian voice.) Throughout the film, Kondabolu makes a convincing case that no matter how The Simpsons came to have a white man voice its lone Indian-American character as a broad stereotype–and to keep the character running a convenience store for 30 years–perhaps the time had come to stop. Recently, the Simpsons writers indirectly responded to Kondabolu’s film, with a defensive cop-out. (“What can you do?” Lisa Simpson, the show’s moral center, says directly to the camera before looking at a picture of Apu.) It was a disappointing end to the conversation around the character, but perhaps it’s not the end.
Although Hank Azaria, the actor and voice artist responsible for a plethora of Simpsons characters including Apu, went on Colbert last night to weigh in on the matter.
“I really want to see Indian, South Asian writers in the room,” he said on the April 24 episode. “Not in a token way, but genuinely informing whatever new direction this character may take, including how it is voiced or not voiced. I’m perfectly willing and happy to step aside or help transition it into something new.”
Kondabolu quickly responded to Azaria’s appearance on Twitter, saying “Thank you, @HankAzaria. I appreciate what you said & how you said it.”
Just last year, Azaria declined to have a conversation with Kondabolu about the character for his film and seemed aligned with the show’s writers. If he’s willing to have a change of heart, perhaps they are too.
Fast Company has reached out to The Simpsons and will update this post if they comment on any changes on their position. Watch a clip from Colbert below.
— The Late Show (@colbertlateshow) April 25, 2018