In 2017, comedian Hari Kondabolu released his acclaimed but hotly contested documentary, The Problem With Apu. In it, Kondabolu argued that the titular Simpsons character had been harmful to South Asians in the West, citing Apu’s outsize cultural footprint in a media landscape that otherwise featured a lack of South Asian representation, his over-the-top accent, and, above all else, the fact that he was voiced by white actor Hank Azaria. Kondabolu’s quest for an interview with Azaria was the central tension of the documentary with Azaria acknowledging the importance of the points Kondabolu was raising in a written message but declining to appear.
Six years later, Kondabolu has finally landed his white whale (sans the brown-whale accent), just in time to help him film a promo for his upcoming stand-up special. Azaria kicks off the promo by introducing himself as the voice of The Simpsons’ Moe the bartender and Chief Wiggum before clearing his throat and reluctantly adding Apu to the list. “I’m here today, though, to urge you: Please watch Hari Kondabolu’s new stand-up comedy special, called Vacation Baby, on YouTube,” Azaria says in the clip. “It’s honestly one of the greatest pieces of stand-up that I’ve ever seen in my life.” Cut to Kondabolu off to the side, directing this promo like it’s a hostage video. “I pretty much had to do that, didn’t I?” Azaria asks him. “Absolutely,” Kondabolu replies, cackling.
Since the release of Kondabolu’s documentary, Azaria has apologized for the harm he has caused to Indian people by voicing the character, and in 2020 he announced he would be stepping away from voicing Apu indefinitely. Perhaps now that he has helped Kondabolu promote his special, he can clear his conscience for good. Vacation Baby premieres on April 18 on YouTube.