Comedian Behind Apu Controversy Depicts Blackface Cartoon Character in Podcast

Hari Kondabolu, the comedian behind the upcoming documentary “The Problem with Apu,” depected a representation of “Italian blackface” in one of his podcasts in which he showed the video game character, Mario, with his face blacked out.

Kondabolu, whose first Netflix special debuts in early May, sparked internet heat against The Simpsons with his documentary “The Problem with Apu.” In the documentary he and other comedians of Indian descent relate stories of how bullies called them “Apu” growing up and how people, even adults, used to quote Apu’s lines from the show at them as children. Kondabolu said he was a fan of The Simpsons and originally liked the character, Apu. But he said as he watched more episodes he began to feel the character was a racist caricature of Indian stereotypes.

He also expressed offense that Hank Azaria, a white Jewish man, voiced the character. Kondabolu said Azaria’s portrayal was Azaria’s portrayal of a white man imitating his father.

Azaria, who’s voiced Apu for almost 30 years, said he’d be willing to stop voicing the character.

Kondabolu, who describes himself as a comedian/activist, runs a podcast with his brother in which the two of them discuss racial issues. In this podcast they do not shy away from making jokes about incidents they’ve witnessed or mimicking accents from other cultures.

During an episode of their podcast, “Kondabolu Bros” titled “Das Racist & Blackface in Rome,” Ashok Kondabolu tells the story of their time in Rome in which they spotted one other comedian back stage wearing black makeup on his face. Ashok Kondabolu said they convinced him to wash it off and said to the crowd “We realize that Europeans are a little bonkey with race shit because they’re, you know, fucking stupid idiot Europeans.”

At that moment he paused to look at Hari Kondabolu who responded, “I’m not stopping you.”

After discussing their interaction with one of the show’s producers about that incident, a moment in which Ashok Kondabolu attempted to mimic the producer’s accent, Hari Kondabolu said someone got a picture of the Italian person in blackface. At that point the brothers presented a picture labeled “Italian Blackface” which showed Mario, the Italian character from Nintendo, with a blacked out face.

The entire video can be seen here

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