Hank Azaria will go down in history — if he isn’t already there — as one of the greatest voice actors of all time. He’s a very good live actor, too, remember him in Friends as Phoebe’s boyfriend? The guy is just a major talent and seems like a good, fairly humble guy.
Conan O’Brien conducts an awesome stay at home interview with Azaria where they get into the hardest Simpson voices Azaria has to do, the ones he likes doing best, and so on. And then they diverge into how Azaria got scared and decided wisely that he needed to insure his vocal cords.
“There are certain voices I save, like Duffman will blow me out in a second,” he told Conan. “I have to save Duffman for the end and I actually dread it. It actually does hurt, but I am not complaining.” Azaria then told a story that is every voice over actor’s worst nightmare. “My voice blows out rather easily, so I have to watch it. I was having a rough time in my life, and I got into a screaming match,” he said. “I totally blew out my voice and it didn’t come back for almost two weeks. I scared myself so bad that I actually got my vocal cords insured. Really.”
In 2020, insanity is fast becoming the new norm in show business.
Hank Azaria, voice actor the character Apu on The Simpsons for more than 30 seasons, 30+ years, will no longer be voicing the character of Apu. Azaria isn’t retiring from the business or even being kicked off the show. He’s still going to voice other characters. He won’t be voicing the character Apu any longer.
Although Azaria would no longer voice the character, The Simpsons weren’t necessarily removing Apu from Springfield: Slash Film suggests producers could recast the character with an Indian actor
In recent times we’ve seen iconic movies being rebooted, recast, redone with an emphasis, motivation and agenda of empowering women, minorities, LGBT and now it’s open season on actors who have been doing voice roles — for dozens of years — on adult animated films to match the character they are voicing.
Let me see if I’m understanding the logic here: does this mean all minority characters now need to be voiced by minority actors/actresses? Gay and lesbian comic book characters (some do exist, I’m guessing) need to be cast by a respective gay actor or lesbian actress? Donald Duck now needs to be the voice of a talking duck? Good luck with casting there.
Voice actors and actresses by their very nature create different voices. Nobody sees these voice actors, but we come to love their voices. It’s the single most non-discriminatory thing in voice acting. Women sometimes voice men, men sometimes voice women, young people voice old, old voice young, blacks voice whites, whites voice black, aliens and animals and …. every living human being, animal, alien or object is voiced by a man or a woman regardless of their age, race or sexual orientation.
Disclaimer: I stopped regularly watching The Simpsons years ago, but will still tune in from time to time and check in our old friends. Barney, Moe, Principal Skinner, The Sea Captain (Ar!), Apu and others are all side characters that have made me laugh. Sort have become apathetic to the show, so it’s not a show where I can say I’m voting with my feet and not watching it any more. Not being part of the regularly viewing audience, thus my voice doesn’t matter in that way. If I was watching it regularly every week, this would be the camel’s back breaking moment. This Apu voice actor must be Indian controversy doesn’t — and will never — change the fact that it’s the greatest adult animated series ever.
Hank Azaria is owed a huge apology by whomever is making this decision. He’s been a hard working, skilled voice actor for dozens of years. It’s not his fault that the character he plays has controversy in 2020 swirling around it.
Graciously and compassionately, Hank Azaria seems to be OK with this decision.
Azaria’s willingness to step aside for an Indian-American actor to step in and play Apu seems heartfelt in the video above with Stephen Colbert. After all, Azaria has voiced dozens of characters on the show, so he won’t be losing much by giving up voicing Apu to another voice actor. It’s not like he’s being fired and replaced with another voice actor for the entire show. He’ll still be very, very rich from his work and this could afford a job opportunity to a minority actor.
My opinion, although I’m sure some others will disagree, is they should just find a dramatic, humorous character arc for Apu to ride off in the sunset from the show. Perhaps kill off the politically incorrect character. Maybe Apu dies in some sort of Indian-American Lives Matter march.
(remember, this is a comedy)
The Rolling Stone article linked above indicates that is the primary objection from a vocal minority in the Indian community. An Indian-American director Hari Kondabulu created a 49 minute documentary called The Problem with Apu (2017) and he’s encouraging others to watch it (“legally or illegally”) so the underlying message is clear. JustWatch shows it is only available for streaming on DirectTV and fuboTV as of this writing. Maybe I’ll run that down for a follow-up if it’s worthwhile to support the opposite side of this debate. Am admitting, I don’t understand why this matters, but in fairness to this film, I might be missing something that is important to understanding the controversy. It costs $4.99 to buy on Amazon Prime. Seems a bit pricey for a 49 minute documentary when I’m paying $5.99 for an entire month subscription to DC Universe, so will pass for now. Maybe someday it will be available on one of the streaming channels we subscribe to.
That aside, it’s clear that some want to use Apu on the show to educate the rest of us on Indian culture and diversity. Sorry, but that’s not what I’d be interested in watching from the character Apu at the Quik-E Mart on The Simpsons, would you?
Replacing Hank Azaria some 30+ years later for another voice actor that matches the character’s race would be one of the single, stupidest casting changes made in any TV series ever. This is not some golden opportunity to make The Simpsons more culturally diverse. The show became popular in great part for how it made fun of EVERYTHING and EVERYONE. Irreverence to the nth degree. If suddenly this is serious education stuff that matters, we’re burning down the roots of the show in favor of turning it into Mister Roger’s Neighborhood.
Hey, but we can do that with Star Wars, Charlie’s Angels, Terminator, so why not The Simpsons, too? Many are calling this getting “woke” but it seems like a better way of going broke.
Lest we remember this is comedy, folks. Humor. It’s supposed to be funny and make people laugh. If we cannot laugh at ourselves any more, if we become so hyper-sensitive and label everything in comedy, stereotypical or otherwise, racist and wrong, what jokes can be told?
In 2020 we’re now saying this matters? At a time when we have homeless tents rising up all over the United States, including not far from Hollywood, we’re worried about this? This.
Insanity is the wrong word, I’m choosing another: bullshit.