Henry Albert "Hank" Azaria is an American actor, producer and comedian. He is best known for his various roles in The Simpsons such as Moe Szyslak, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, Chief Wiggum, Comic Book Guy, Carl Carlson and numerous other Simpsons characters. He is also known for his live action roles which include The Birdcage, Mad About You, Friends, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian and Gargamel in the live action Smurf movies.
Azaria was born on Queens, New York. His father ran several dress-manufacturing businesses, while his mother raised him and his two older sisters, Stephanie and Elise. Azaria's mother use to be a publicist for Columbia Pictures, promoting films in Latin American countries. During his childhood, Azaria often "memorized the scripts of the films, shows and stand-up comedy routines that he enjoyed.
Azaria attended The Kew-Forest School in Forest Hills. He decided to become an actor after performing in a school play at age sixteen, at the expense of his academic studies, "obesessed with acting." He studied drama at Tufts University where he befrinded Oliver Platt. Together they both starred in various college stage productions before Azaria trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. After school Azaria and Platt set up their own company, named Big Theater, although Harold Pinter's The Dumb Waiter was the only thing they ever performed. He decided that television was a better arena and offered more opportunity so, after being offered work with talent agent Harry Gold, Azaria moved to Los Angeles.
Early career (1986 - 1988)
He made his television debut with a role in the pilot episode of the 1986 comedy-drama series Joe Bash, with Peter Doyle. His one part - one line role was cut out before the episode aired. Although the role secured him admissin to the Screen Actors Guild. He also appeared in the failed pilot Morning Maggie, alongside Matthew Perry, with whom he became good friends. Azaria has described his career progression as being gradual; he did not achieve overnight fame. Between acting jobs he performed as a stand-up comedian, and worked as a bartender for a catering firm.
The Simpsons (1989 - Present)
Azaria became famous for his voice work on the animated show The Simpsons. He joined the show having previously performed only one voice over as the titular animated dog in the failed Fox pilot Hollywood Dog. The first voice he performed on The Simpsons was Moe Szyslak, replacing Christopher Collins who initially recorded the character's voice. Azaria later went on to voice Cheif Wiggum and Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. He felt that, iitially, the producers didn't seem too pleased with what he had done. The producers had him back recording lines each week. However, Azaria thought that each week would be his last because he thought he didn't do that well. However, by the second season he was recording multiple recurring voices and was given a contract and made a permanent member of the main cast. Azaria would later go on to voice Comic Book Guy, Carl Carlson, Cletus Spuckler, Professor Frink, Dr, Nick Riviera, Lou, Snake Jailbird, Kirk Van Houten, the Sea Captain, Superintendent Chalmers, Disco Stu, Duffman, the Wiseguy and numerous other one-time characters. Hank Azaria based the voices of all the characters he played on the voices of actors and people he knew.
Azaria's work on the simpsons has won him four Emmy Awards for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance in 1998, 2001, 2003 and 2015.
Azaria and the rest of the cast reprised their roles in the 2007 film The Simpsons Movies.
Television series work
With the continued success of The Simpsons, Azaria began taking on other, principally live-action, roles. He was a main cast member on the show Herman's Head playing Jay Nichols. Following the sries cancellation Azaria auditioned for the role of Joey Tribbiani, one of the lead characters in the sitcom Friends. He was instead cast as David, one of Phoebe Buffay's boyfriends. From 1995 to 1999 Azaria had arecurring role on the sitcom Mad About You as Nat Ostertag, the dog walker. Azaria was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Oustanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for his roles in both Mad About You and Friends.
Hank Azaria also had the lead role in the short-lived sitcom If Not For You in 1995, playing record producer Craig Schaeffer.
In 2002 Azaria starred in and produced the sitcom Imagine That. Two years later he later starred as psychiatrist Craig "Huff" Huffstodt in the Showtime drama series Huff, which ran for two seasons between 2004 and 2006. Azaria served as an executive producer on the show and directed an episode from the second season. In 2011 Aaria returned to television starring in the NBC sitcom Free Agents which was a remake of a British show of the same name.
Azaria made his fil debut in the 1990 direct-to-video movie Cool Blue as Buzz. His first theatrically released feature film apearance came the same year in Pretty Woman, as a police detective. He would later be in films such as Heat (1995), Celebrity (1998), Great Expectations (1998), Godzilla (1998), Along Came Polly (2004), Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004), Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009), and Smurfs (2011) and Smurfs 2 (2013).
In the early 1990's Azaria was in a relationship with actress Julie Warner. His relationship with actress Helen Hunt began in 1994. They married in a traditional Jewish ceremony at the couple's home in Southern California on July 17, 1999. One year later Hunt filed for divorce which was finalized on Drcember 18, 2000.
In 2007 Azaria began dating former actress Katie Wright and the two later married. They have a sone named Hal who was born in 2009. Azaria is also the godfather of Oliver Platt's son, George.
He is also a regular poker player.
He enjoys the music of Elvis Costello, and has stated that he would have been a therapist if he wasn't an actor.
He considers The Godfather trilogy to be what inspired him to become an actor, and counts Peter Sellers and Walt Frazier as his heroes.
Azaria co-founded the educational support charity Determined to Succeed.