The Simpsons’ Apu Nahasapeemapetilon is one of the most beloved Indian-American characters in all of American pop culture, standing as he does at the center of some of the most celebrated episodes of what’s widely considered to be one the greatest comedy series of all time. He’s also—as pointed out with varying levels of comedy, eye-rolling, and indignity by comedian Hari Kondabolu in his new TruTV documentary The Problem With Apu—a walking racial stereotype, voiced by a white guy doing the goofiest possible iteration of an Indian accent.
Kondabolu investigates that dichotomy in the trailer above, talking to members of the show’s creative team (who’ve wrestled with this aspect of the character before) about his implausible endurance, showing clips of Hank Azaria doing the character’s voice during public appearances, and asking minority performers what it’s like to walk into an entertainment industry primed to hear Apu’s voice come out of anybody with brown skin and an Indian name. The tone—up to and including Kondabolu placing himself in a “safe space” as the word “cuck” dances around his head—is tongue-in-cheek without avoiding actual substance, whether that’s Simpsons writer Dana Gould claiming that “There are accents that, by their nature, to white Americans, sound funny,” or Whoopi Goldberg agreeing that Apu meets all of the qualifications to be a kind of minstrel act. The Problem With Apu will debut some time this fall on TruTV.