The Simpsons Apu Controversy: Hank Azaria Explains Why He Will No Longer Voice The Character

"It just didn't feel right."

46 Comments

Actor Hank Azaria has opened up on his decision to stop voicing the character Apu on The Simpsons. Speaking to The New York Times, Azaria said he was thoughtfully considering the matter for multiple years before making the choice to end his run as Apu.

"Once I realized that that was the way this character was thought of, I just didn't want to participate in it anymore," Azaria said. "It just didn't feel right."

Apu was one of the most prominent South Asian characters on TV in the 90s when The Simpsons was getting started and ultimately rising to prominence. Comedian Hari Kondabolu's 2017 documentary, The Problem With Apu, called out Apu as being a stereotype.

Azaria, who is white and Jewish, said he saw the documentary and his initial reaction was to defend the character. "We make fun of everyone," he said. "Don't tell me how to be funny."

Azaria would go on to consult with Indian-Americans, including actor Utkarsh Ambudkar, to get their opinions about what he should do about Apu. Ambudkar told NYT that Azaria "was in a space where he was exploring, where he was trying to open up and take responsibility."

Azaria said he did some self-reflection and thought that he wouldn't feel very good if a TV show depicted a character based on someone like him--a white Jewish man--as a stereotype.

"I started thinking, if that character were the only representation of Jewish people in American culture for 20 years, which was the case with Apu, I might not love that," he said.

Around one year ago, Azaria met with The Simpsons bosses Al Jean, James L. Brooks, and Matt Groening to tell them he no longer wanted to voice Apu. He said the executives were "very sympathetic and supportive" when he told them he was "uncomfortable" voicing Apu.

Azaria went on to say that he still loves The Simpsons and he hopes to continue to be a part of it for a long time to come. Azaria also voices Moe, Chief Wiggum, Comic Book Guy, Cletus, Professor Frink, the Sea Captain, Superintendent Chalmers, Disco Stu, and Duffman, among others.

"I have tremendous pride in doing the show. And the character of Apu was done with love and pride and the best of intentions. My message is, things can be done with really good intentions and have negative consequences," Azaria said.

There is no word yet on if The Simpsons will continue to feature Apu, and if so, what actor might take over for Azaria. "Apu is beloved worldwide. We love him too. Stay tuned," the producers of The Simpsons said in a statement.

The Simpsons is currently in its 31st season. The show may eventually go off in the air, and Disney (which now owns Fox) is preparing for that future by announcing many more animated shows.

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inkman66

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As a southern white man, I demand that Fox immediately stop production of Bless The Harts.

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PrpleTrtleBuBum

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forget the topic. this guy voicing moe, comic book guy, cletus and sea captain should be an example to all "voice actors" like jennifer hale and nolan north who only have 1 voice in all their 100 roles

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cejay0813

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Honestly anyone can do Apus voice and if this guy just didn't feel right voicing him he shouldn't be judged or thrown under the bus for those personal convictions. Even if he was moreso pressured by social media, just find someone else to do the dang voice who doesn't gaf

Now to the people complaining, are we saying that some of our south Asian brethren don't sound like Apu? To say that is an outright lie. So basically no matter the ethnic/racial group being depicted, they must always sound American/English otherwise its offensive?

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Ultralof

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This comment section is just as bad as their opponents.

"He bowed because of an internet mobs opinion"

Signed: an internet mob

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Cashmoney007

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It is never a good idea to pander to people or any groups because the nonsense will never stop with them, and this problem started after that stupid documentary a few years ago.

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naryanrobinson

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Edited By naryanrobinson  Online

“It just didn't feel right.”

The only thing that changed between it feeling “right”, and it feeling “not right”, was the number of people screaming at him. He caved, basically. He read angry internet comments, and altered his life according to them. He let them affect him, as is all too often the case with good people.

One of them thought they could smell a weakness, a chance to dominate someone else, to feel powerful, and to be the centre of attention, and from there it just spread like a virus. And the critical mass, the tipping point, seems to be about 0.1% of Simpsons viewers. And the moment they made the mistake of addressing it on the show, blood was in the water, they moved in for the kill, and it was only a matter of time until Hank's mouth was forcibly shut.

And now another valuable lesson has been learned:

If we just hurl enough abuse and threats, we can control basically anyone. If we throw enough stones, we can bring anyone to their knees before us. And btw, the bigger the hit, the bigger the rush. In Canada at least, we're just a step or two away from fake accents being against the law.

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esqueejy

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Edited By esqueejy

@naryanrobinson: If you read the article, he did no such thing as "cave." he went and explored his own thoughts about it and talked with others to make an informed decision about how he felt about it and what he felt would be the right thing to do.

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naryanrobinson

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@esqueejy:

Funny how all these people in the public eye all “went and explored their own thoughts” and all came to exactly the same conclusion word-for-word after being emotionally abused for months or even years.

The conclusion which is most likely to make the relentless abuse stop, is usually the one they all seem to prefer.

Gee now that I think of it, having thousands of people screaming at me helps me think too. That's my preferred environment for self-reflection, and certainly lets me unwind and explore thoughts other than, “Oh god, oh god, please make it stop”.

I'm sure whatever conclusions they come to under those circumstances are very deeply thought-out and patiently meditated on. Who knew torture was such a consistent method for bringing people around to my way of thinking?

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esqueejy

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@naryanrobinson: Yawn. Go cry about it to your Proud Boys buddies.

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tsunami2311

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Edited By tsunami2311

to many butt hurt people about TV shows and characters in them

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cejay0813

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@tsunami2311: Exactly, and why now? Simpsons has been on longer than some of us have been alive.

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Solaryellow

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Edited By Solaryellow

Many of the characters perpetuate stereotypes yet this is the one which crossed the line?

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fbplayer1064

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lol Apu is a family man and a small business owner, but obviously it's totally racist because he has an accent. I need to tell a lot of people I work with in IT that their accents are racist and they need to stop.

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cejay0813

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@fbplayer1064: Pretty much. I guess its not offensive if the depicted ethnic groups all sound American/English

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dzimm

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Edited By dzimm

Of course Apu is a stereotype. Every character on The Simpsons is a stereotype. What a stupid controversy.

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brxricano

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Apu had some gorgeous heartfelt episodes. He is thoroughly fleshed out. He has a family ffs. You dont hear anyone talking about the mexican character with the giant sombrero doing nothing but being a stereotype.

Dont tell me how to be funny, unless youre a garbage comedian. Then please, by all means...

Wait, did you just say IF the show had a jewish white male character you wouldn't like it??......KRUSTY THE CLOWN. The money loving alcoholic drug addled sex craving jester who hates work life and children. The crappiest kid in town is literally his biggest fan. Obviously you dont mind at all, never mind not like it too much.

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brxricano

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Apu had some gorgeous heartfelt episodes. He is thoroughly fleshed out. He has a family ffs. You dont hear anyone talking about the mexican character with the giant sombrero doing nothing but being a stereotype.

Dont tell me how to be funny, unless youre a garbage comedian. Then please, by all means...

2 • 
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Keaze_

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Saw this posted the last time there was an article about Hank accepting that the character of Apu promotes racism. It is clearly not true.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F68l9FozxJ8&t=1141s

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Good_Coop89

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All these years I never knew he was the voice of Comic Book Guy.

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tlpina

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He's not playing Apu because he lost his spine and caved to a group of misdirected idiots who are taking the fact that someone has an accent and turning it into something to be ashamed of.

Differences exist in the world and suppressing a joke is actually suppressing people who mean no harm while the real discrimination is left unchecked.

People who live by trigger warnings and safe spaces are going to have a real tough time dealing with the real world.

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R-Gamer

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@tlpina: couldn't agree with you more, well said.

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Blk_Mage_Ctype

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Edited By Blk_Mage_Ctype

It's okay Hank, you don't have to explain why you caved into pseudo-progressive rhetoric. We're not not mad at you, just disappointed that you didn't have the guts to defend your work and point out the obvious, glaring flaws in the criticism of Apu's character, not to mention call out Hari Kondabolu for his hypocrisy in labeling Apu as a negative ethnic stereotype as if working at a convenience store is something to be ashamed of or otherwise not good enough, much less the absurdity of the idea that there exists a way to accurately represent an entire nationality of individuals in a single character.

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lionheartssj1

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Given that the whole show is populated with stereotypes, I feel like they're going to have to recast most of the voices with appropriate demographics if this is the new standard.

5 • 
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pharoe777

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...and yet, he'll still be the voice of several other stereotypical characters, no one needs to applaud this jackass, plus, the show it's self is dead (been watching since day one).....I'm glad it's finally ending, I can just watch the older reruns.

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Cappy

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Did not realize how thoughtful a guy he was, I’m really impressed he gave it so much thought and eventually really changed his mind. I can understand why he would not want to do it anymore, after hearing from so many people in Asian / Indian community that they were bullied or that it made them feel so bad.

I don’t exactly understand why that character caused Indian people so much trouble but the crazy Scotsman, which seemed much worse, didn’t seem to bother the Scottish community. But I gotta take people’s word for it. I can;t imagine all those Different people He spoke with were making it all up.

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Elranzer

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Dear Hank Azaria:

One of the most prominent characters on The Simpsons is literally a white male Jew stereotype, voiced by a non-Jewish actor.

Did you forget Krusty the Clown?

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bluestorm83

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"Azaria said he did some self-reflection and thought that he wouldn't feel very good if a TV show depicted a character based on someone like him - a white Jewish man - as a stereotype."

MORT. GOLDMAN.

And the world didn't end.

Have all the comedians forgotten what Comedy is? Have they forgotten that we're SUPPOSED to take our differences and laugh over them, because either we laugh together or we hate apart? Yeah, Apu is a Stereotype of the hardworking large-familied Indian Immigrant. Homer is a Stereotype of the fat stupid white American idiot. Which stereotype is more negative? Ned Flanders, at this point, is a straight up MOCKERY of Bible Believing Christian Men, a far cry from the well-meaning but dull and frail Ned that we started with. But, and here's the big point... SO WHAT? I spend all day in church every Sunday, I believe what's written in the scriptures. I don't cry about a CARTOON making fun of ME. I learned a LONG time ago not to care what others say when they're being mean on purpose; how much less shall I care when someone is being funny but accidentally crosses a line?

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lionheartssj1

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@bluestorm83: Zero self-awareness.

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Elranzer

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Edited By Elranzer

@bluestorm83: Not just Mort Goldman. On The Simpsons itself....

Herschel “Krusty the Clown” Krustofsky, voiced by non-Jewish Dan Castellaneta, is a very shrewd Jew businessman stereotype.

And his father, Hyman Krustofsky, guest voiced by the great Jackie Mason, is literally a cartoon character Rabbi.

And of course South Park has Kyle, with Kyle’s stereotypical family, plus Kyle’s Cousin Kyle.

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mcnichoj

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Recycling old articles as "new"s?

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lagbolt68

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There are several stereotypes on that show. Never bow to the SJW mob.

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deactivated-5f5fbd033c899

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@lagbolt68: Who really believes this is the true reason he quit? He played the character for decades and then took years to make up his mind he didn't want to play the character anymore because of stereotypes and racism. He made his money and now he's bored of the character, plain and simple.

I agree with lagbolt68, there are tonnes of stereotypes in the show and all are in the name of humor. They may not be funny because I think this show peaked many years ago. Trust SJWs to only single out the one that fits the narrative.

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thomaswmak

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@Roach: Don't think that's the case if he's still voicing the other characters on the show.

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deactivated-5f5fbd033c899

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@thomaswmak: Good point, maybe the 'boredom' reason for him not voicing the character anymore is wrong. But the timing after so many years indicates it isn't for the reason he's saying it's for.

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thomaswmak

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@Roach: most likely just afraid of being the target of SJW.

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BigDaveX

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@lagbolt68: As opposed to what? Carrying on with a role he no longer feels comfortable performing in order to appease the anti-SJW mob?

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lagbolt68

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@bigdavex: He voiced the character for over 25 years. You are suggesting he was uncomfortable voicing Apu that long? Funny how Hank Azaria had no problem with it until a mob of people came out and suggested it was wrong. Hank Azaria hasn't stopped voicing Apu because he's uncomfortable with it. He's stopped voicing the iconic character because a VERY SMALL fraction of people say that it's wrong. I promise you, real Simpsons fans, would rather see the character potrayed by him. And while the show isn't that funny anymore, there's still more Simpsons fans out there than these people who just want to ruin our favorite films and television all in the name of social justice

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somberfox

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Apu is one of the most likable characters on the show and it sucks to see political correctness kill a decades old good thing

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cashx002

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Whatever, he just caved in to SJWs.. . I get it, but I don't.. It's disturbing and sad. The 90s were better with free speech/humor.

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PrpleTrtleBuBum

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@cashx002: its funny how south park had to defend itself but actually got through and became a big likeable thing. in just 10 years things have changed a lot and now even the tame shows are afraid of doing anything

in so many ways i preferred when everyone couldnt hammer their opinions online (and makers couldnt collect data). even games were able take more risks as devs werent afraid of backlashes or didnt snoop to please the one main democraphy

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TwoGirlsOneCub

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Edited By TwoGirlsOneCub

That's not how people view Apu. I doubt even the dude who made the documentary sincerely believes Apu was ill intended or gives people a bad impression of Indians. It's just some guy who needed a topic and to make a name for himself.

The Simpsons hasn't been relevant for decades at this point but when they no longer satirize this kind of silliness and instead kowtow to it the show has become the joke it would have made fun of all those years ago.

The Simpsons, we are no longer laughing with you. We are laughing at you.

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uninspiredcup

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Goes without saying the Simpsons should have ended years ago.

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Wraith3

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I don't necessarily think it's a stereotype. Anyone in the U.S. can go within 5 mins and find a store owned by Indian American families and some do sound like Apu. If they were doing it to make fun of Indian Americans, then that would be racist and I would be all for canning the actor/character. Some examples in the article were cases where the character was portrayed a certain derogatory way to make fun of a group of people. I don't think that's the case now.

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