Cultural sensitivity scored a win now that comedic actor Hank Azaria has said he will stop doing the voice of Apu on The Simpsons. For 31 seasons, Azaria has lent a stereotypical South Asian voice to the animated character, a choice that led to Hari Kondabolu's insightful and humorous 2017 documentary The Problem with Apu.
Initially, Azaria and executive producers Matt Groening and Al Jean avoided questions about Apu's offensiveness. But a year after Kondabolu spotlighted the problem, The Simpsons dropped an episode titled, "No Good Read Goes Unpunished" that satirized political correctness and public outcries that Apu be updated to eliminate insensitivity. Turns out fans didn't that like that either. That's why the decision to have Azaria end his time as Apu feels more resolute.
"All we know is I won't be doing the voice anymore, unless there's some way to transition it or something," Azaria told the site SlashFilm.com at Thursday's Television Critics Association winter press tour. "What they're going to do with the character is their call. It's up to them and they haven't sorted it out yet. All we've agreed on is I won't do the voice anymore."
In response to the Azaria's announcement, Kondabolu took to Twitter and said he hopes a new and improved Apu sticks around on the show. "If [Azaria] is indeed no longer doing the voice of Apu, I do hope they keep the character & let a very talented writing staff do something interesting with him," Kondabolu tweeted. "If not to better the show, then to at least spare me some death threats."
The Simpsons Season 31 returns with new episodes Sunday Feb. 16 at 8/7c on Fox.