Apu Nahasapeemapetilon was long the only Indian character on American television, and his voice and portrayal have influenced the way Indians and Indian-Americans have been perceived and treated in the US for years. In 2017, the documentary The Problem with Apu created by the comedian Hari Kondabolu sparked a national conversation over how the stereotype affected the lives of Indian-Americans by presenting Indians as a joke on screen.

But The Simpsons responded this year with a scene widely criticised by viewers, including Kondabolu. In it, Lisa Simpson—the family’s bookish daughter and often the show’s moral centre—speaks directly to the TV audience: “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?” The camera then pans to a framed photo of Apu inscribed with the line, “Don’t have a cow!”

Azaria, who declined to be interviewed for Kondabolu’s documentary, had acknowledged in the past that the depiction of Apu was a stereotype and “not tremendously accurate.” Now, he says he hopes The Simpsons will take into account what Indian and Indian-American viewers want for the character.

“It not only makes sense but it just feels like the right thing to do,” he told Colbert.

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