Hank Azaria says he'd 'step aside' from voicing Apu on 'The Simpsons' following controversy

On The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Hank Azaria addressed the controversy over Kwik-E-Mart owner Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, the Indian character he voices on The Simpsons.

Simmering outrage boiled after the release of a documentary, The Problem with Apu, by comedian Hari Kondabolu, examining the notion that Apu perpetuates racial and ethnic stereotypes, and The Simpsons’ reaction. The show’s response to the uproar was a scene in which Lisa says, “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?” Marge responds, “Some things will be dealt with at a later date.” To which Lisa adds, “If at all.”

Azaria made it clear that he wasn’t even aware of the scene, and said of it, “I think that if anybody came away from that segment feeling that they should lighten up or take a joke better or grow a thicker skin … it’s certainly not the way I feel about it, and that’s definitely not the message that I want to send.”

Azaria said he’d like to see Indian or South Asian writers help inform a different direction for Apu and that he would be willing to let him go if necessary. Azaria would still be a huge part of The Simpsons, as he does dozens of other voices on the show.

“I’m perfectly willing and happy to step aside or help transition it into something new,” Azaria said. “I really hope that’s what The Simpsons does. And it not only makes sense, but it just feels like the right thing to do to me.”

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert airs weeknights at 11:35 on CBS.

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