Don’t Have a Cow, Mom!: A Q&A With Hank Azaria

By Laurie Heifetz

March 4, 2008


Comedy, drama, theater, animation, television, movies–you name the genre or medium, and Hank Azaria has excelled at it. Revered among comedy fans for his versatile voicework on The Simpsons (including the characters Apu, Chief Wiggum and Moe), Azaria has been in numerous films including Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, Along Came Polly, and The Birdcage, and has starred in several TV shows including Huff.

Hank Azaria
Hank Azaria lends his voice to the animation/documentary hybrid Chicago 10, opening Feb. 29, 2008, in selected cities. REUTERS/Jim Ruymen

Azaria’s next film is Chicago 10, an animation/documentary hybrid that combines archival footage with cartoon dramatizations of the 1968 Chicago Seven trial, when seven political activists were charged with incitement in the wake of protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Azaria voices Abbie Hoffman and Allen Ginsberg in the animated courtroom scenes for the film, which opens in select cities Feb. 29. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Azaria.

IFF: You’re of Sephardic-Jewish heritage…

HA: Yes.

And what’s it been like being in interfaith relationships for you?

You know. Wow. Did my mom put you up to that? Um, I’m not a very religious person. I wasn’t raised that way. My parents are very progressive and open about that stuff, so it hasn’t really been an issue.

I read that you had a Jewish ceremony at your wedding [to Helen Hunt, whose father’s mother is Jewish. The coupled divorced in 2000.]

A female, very progressive rabbi proceeded over that, but it was kind of more of a Wicca ceremony than a Jewish ceremony, when all is said and done.

Another reporter: But at least you had a huppah.

We did have a huppah.

And what about with your current [girlfriend who is of Irish heritage]–are you planning a Jewish ceremony or an interfaith…

My mom did put you up to all this! Really, we have no plans that way, and God knows–literally, God knows what we would do in that circumstance.

Another reporter: What’s next after “The Farnsworth Connection” [an Aaron Sorkin-scribed Broadway play in which Azaria plays David Sarnoff, founder of NBC]?

I do this Jack Black, Harold Ramos, Fievel movie [Year One]–I play Abraham, yeah, so I mother will like that one, and you and my mom will like that one. And then I’m doing–oh, I’m doing Night at the Museum 2 with Ben Stiller. I’m playing the villain in it–I’m playing an Egyptian pharaoh come back to life with very nasty plans for everybody.

Another reporter: How’s your mother going to feel about you playing the pharaoh?


So, if you were to have children, would you want– how would you raise them, do you think?

You’re wearing a wire and my mom is listening.

No, no, definitely not.

I would want to expose my child–’cause I am Jewish, so I’d certainly want to expose him to that, and let him make his own mind up down the road. But I’d want to give him or her a full view.

I also have a lot of spiritual beliefs. I kind of cherry pick from a lot of different religions and take what I like and leave the rest. And so that’s how I’d raise my kid. But I think he should know he’s Jewish and get the training that I got and then he can take it or leave it– ake up his own mind.

Do you celebrate Jewish holidays?

I don’t. I believe in a very personal relationship to your maker, and I try to live that everyday and I’m not a huge organized religion guy.


About Laurie Heifetz

Laurie Heifetz is an entertainment and travel reporter. She writes for the New York Post, Nick Magazine and the Forward.