As a kid growing up in Queens, N.Y., accents were an off-limits thing. They were as volatile an offense as a “your mama” joke, or a flat-out racial epithet. My beloved borough is known as the most diverse county in the world, as it’s the home for folks hailing from over 164 countries, and countless more languages.
You grow up eating Irish soda bread, Jamaican cocoa bread, and even know a Yiddish word or two. I could distinguish accents very early on since I was around them so often, but never did one make me come to an uncomfortable halt like Apu from The Simpsons.
While some of the store owners in my neighborhood were Indian, the Indian families I grew up around included doctors, cab drivers, businessmen and teachers. Apu seemed to be predestined for a life in a Springfield Kwik-E-Mart, being mocked by animated characters and live audiences every week. While some laughed, I tried to overlook Apu and the stereotypes, so I could enjoy the show that all my friends— and the entire nation— were raving about.
Over 20 years later, it’s clear I’m not the only one. Hari Kondabolu, an actor, standup comic, and fellow Queens native, has produced a new documentary, The Problem with Apu, to explore the troubling stereotypes head on. Debuting on Nov. 19 on truTV, the film puts The Simpsons to task for being at the forefront of so many social issues, but turning a blind eye to poking needless fun at the Indian community. The project includes Master of None star Aziz Ansari, who was constantly asked where to find the nearest Kwik-E-Mart alongside his father, who is the 19th surgeon general of the U.S. Surgeon general.
The Problem with Apu includes more stories from South Asian actors and the first-hand accounts they faced while trying to break into the industry— you’ll see a host of actors forced to audition as Apu himself.
It is absolutely about time. Check out the trailer below.