The Little Tragedy of Hank Azaria

Hank Azaria arrives at the "Brockmire" and "Documentary Now!" For Your Consideration event at the Television Academy's Saban Media Center on Wednesday, May 31, 2017, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

This week, Donald Trump ended the Korean War. Kanye West gave us a lesson in political realism and courage. “America’s Dad” was convicted of being a serial rapist. And the United Kingdom celebrated the birth of a royal child while decreeing the death of a commoner’s child, causing me to say a little prayer of thanks to the farmers of Lexington-Concord.


In all that dreamlike craziness, you could be forgiven for missing the little tragedy of Hank Azaria. After all, he was just one more celebrity bullied into conformity by the leftwing fascists who dominate our culture. Canadian singer Shania Twain was also pressured to backtrack after praising Donald Trump. And Chance the Rapper, who tweeted that black people don’t have to be Democrats, was also forced to apologize, so I guess black people do have to be Democrats after all.

But what happened to Azaria seemed especially sad to me. Maybe it’s personal. My father was a celebrated “voice man,” a radio performer renowned for doing hundreds of silly character voices. Azaria, who does more than two dozen of the voices on The Simpsons, may well be the greatest talent in this field since Mel Blanc, who populated the world of Warner Bros. Looney Tunes by doing every character from Bugs Bunny to Daffy Duck to Tweetie Pie, Sylvester Cat and all the rest.

It is a joyful and delightful gift — to me, anyway. I asked to meet Azaria once when I happened to be on a set where he was. A producer brought me to his trailer. I wanted to tell him about my old man, but I (who have calmly met some of the biggest stars in the world without being rattled at all) was so starstruck I forgot what I wanted to say. I mumbled something laudatory and Azaria was pleasant and kind.

Among the brilliant Simpson characters Azaria does is Apu, an Indian-American grocer. Like all the characters on The Simpsons, Apu is a stereotype. As with all the characters, we laugh at his silliness but also appreciate his humanity. There is no character on the show who does not fit this description. That’s why, at its best, it’s a great show.


So some Indian-American comedian or other made some documentary or other about Apu and how “problematic” he is to this comedian’s delicate Indian-American identity. Among his other complaints, he objects to the fact that Apu is voiced by a white man. The Simpsons responded with a funny scene basically telling this comedian to pound sand. The cultural left, including the documentary guy, was incensed. Why? Because their bullying depends on people being scared and apologizing. Once people stop fearing them, the cultural left has no power at all. They’re just a bunch of would-be thought police.

Unfortunately, they got to Azaria. He went on TV and talked about how sad the accusations made him, and how he was willing to stop doing Apu’s voice if that was the right thing to do. I don’t blame Azaria for saying this, but I think it is absolutely awful that he did.

I have no respect for this Indian-American comedian’s complaints. He attacked the work of a far more talented man and put him in a position where he felt bad about doing great work that gives people joy. That’s a disgusting, small and ugly thing to do. To do it in the name of your race is even smaller and uglier. He should be ashamed of himself. Let him do his own original work that gives people joy instead of parasitically feeding off the work of others. I know he thinks he’s woke and “starting a conversation,” but I think he’s a pinch-hearted racist.


If we follow this guy’s logic, if only people of the “right” race are allowed do racial characters and humor, then the brilliant Denzel Washington ought to leave the Broadway stage where he’s currently performing in The Iceman Cometh and all talk of the fantastic Idris Elba doing James Bond should cease. Oh, I know, this Woke Racism is only supposed to go one way, the “right” way. But that’s nonsense. Racism is racism, whichever way it goes.

I think it’s time — it’s past time — that people like Azaria — all performers, writers, producers — all creators — took a lesson from Kanye West. Do your work and speak your mind without apology. The cultural left is just a small cadre of bullies. Stand up to them and their power will evaporate.

For more commentary, listen to my podcast Monday through Thursday.


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