Comedian Hari Kondabolu has worked for years to get anything resembling an apology from the creators of “The Simpsons” and actor Hank Azaria for their stereotype-riddled portrayal of Kwik-E-Mart owner Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. Azaria, who voices Apu, refused to speak on camera for Kondabolu’s documentary on Apu and racist depictions of South Asians, “The Problem With Apu.” And the long-running animated series seemingly dismissed Kondabolu’s critique in a recent episode.
Azaria finally addressed the criticism during an appearance on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” last night (April 24).
Without directly naming Kondabolu or his documentary, Azaria, who is White, told Colbert that “The Simpsons” writers’ room needs more South Asians to influence Apu’s direction—with or without him. “I think the most important thing is we have to listen to South Asian people, Indian people in this country, when they talk about what they feel and how they think about this character,” he said. “I’m perfectly willing and happy to step aside or help transition it into something new. I really hope that’s what ‘The Simpsons’ does. It not only makes sense, but it just feels like the right thing to do, to me.”
Watch Azaria’s full remarks:
— The Late Show (@colbertlateshow) April 25, 2018
Kondabolu shared the clip with his own thanks for Azaria’s comments:
— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) April 25, 2018
Several of Kondabolu’s supporters also tweeted about his comments, noting that this response likely would not have happened without Kondabolu’s documentary:
Absolutely incredible. Years and years of explaining the simple values of representation, dignity, and inclusion pay off. @HariKondabolu you’ve fought for, and won us (and our parents!) the respect we always deserved. https://t.co/bihahdciEx
— Anil Dash Dot Com (@anildash) April 25, 2018
I’m so proud of my friend @harikondabolu for the years of work he put into pushing The Simpsons into acknowledging the harm they’ve done with Apu. I wish he & so many other South Asian people didn’t have to fight so hard & so long for this basic recognition of their humanity https://t.co/rsGFJYwP7s
— Ijeoma Oluo (@IjeomaOluo) April 25, 2018
As of press time, no one affiliated with “The Simpsons” has officially commented on Azaria’s remarks.