In the new documentary The Problem with Apu, South Asian-American comedian Hari Kondabolu confronts his long-standing “nemesis” Apu Nahasapeemapetilon — better known as the Indian convenience store owner on The Simpsons. Kondabolu discusses how this controversial caricature was created, burrowed its way into the hearts and minds of Americans, and continues to exist — intact — nearly three decades later. Aziz Ansari, Kal Penn, Aasif Mandvi, Hasan Minjaj, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Aparna Nancherla, Russell Peters, Sakina Jaffrey, and Maulik Pancholy share stories about their own experiences with Apu and the broader questions about the comedy and representation he evokes. The film also features interviews with Whoopi Goldberg and W. Kamau Bell, among others.
“I was obsessed with The Simpsons growing up and it has greatly influenced my comedy,” says Kondabolu in a statement. “However, as my mother proves, you can criticize something you love because you expect more from it. For the longest time, Apu was the most prominent representation of South Asian Americans, and despite how much our society has changed in the last three decades, the character persists today. I made this film to not only talk about the origin of Apu and highlight the impact of such images in media, but also to celebrate the diversity and complexity of my community.”
The Problem with Apu screens Nov. 14 at the DOC NY film festival in New York and then debuts Nov. 19 on truTV at 10 p.m. ET.
Watch the film’s trailer below and an exclusive clip, above.