Kondabolu is a stand-up comedian and writer with a long history of topical-yet-cutting material. Last year, he put that wit to work on a documentary titled The Problem with Apu. It examined the rise of more marginalized voices in comedy in recent years, and how the character Apu has impacted some of those creators. The eventual result of the documentary and the discussion it began was tha Simpsons producers reportedly decided to limit their use of Apu going forward.
For a few thousand die-hard Simpsons fans, that hit too close to home. They started a petition on Change.org asking Netflix to remove Kondabolu's latest stand-up special, Warn Your Relatives. The Netflix original special came out back in May, but his detractors have apparently decided that it should now be removed.
"Hari Kondabolu is a pseudo comedian, that needed a little fame, the petition reads bluntly. "The channel he found was to atack [sic] Apu Nahasapeemapetilon from The Simpson [sic]. He was able to push producers to remove Apu from the show. We are asking Netflix and other companies to remove Hari's content from their networks."
"He will understand what feeedom [sic] of speech is," it concludes.
So far, over 54,000 people have signed the petition, as it inches toward its goal of 75,000 signatures. However, the odds of Netflix removing the special are very low. The streaming giant rarely removes original content from its catalogue — even series that have been canceled, discontinued or marred with controversy.
In addition, Netflix has a wealth of data on who watches their programs when, and what other programs they like. The streaming giant does not typically heed the online petitions addressed to it — of which there are thousands.
The Problem With Apu was released in November of 2017 on TruTV, with nothing to do with Netflix. Kondabolu wrote and starred in the documentary, and also served as an executive producer. The documentary mostly concerned the personal experiences of South-Asian people who had dealt with the legacy of Apu over the years.
However, it did have a measurable impact on The Simpsons. After the documentary came out, the show produced an episode titled "No Good Read Goes Unpunished" in an apparent response. The show — which came out in April — was far from an apology and left many people unsatisfied, including Kondabolu.
Now, the controversy is back in the spotlight as reports circulate that The Simpsons is dropping Apu from its cast altogether. The story began with Castlevania showrunner Adi Shankar, who said that the character was leaving TV in an interview with IndieWire. Shankar cited three sources close to the production as his source. Later, Simpsons executive producer Al Jean responded on Twitter.
"Adi Shankar is not a producer on The Simpsons," Jean wrote. "I wish him the very best but he does not speak for our show."
This non-denial had fans that much more certain of Apu's fate, and some apparently felt it was time to strike back at Kondabolu himself. The comedian has not responded to this petition in particular, though he has been open about the backlash against him recently on social media.