From The Simpsons to Monty Python, Futurama to Desert Island Discs, Stephen Hawking isn’t just the most famous scientist of the modern world – he’s a pop culture icon.
The physicist, who has died aged 76, displayed a talent for humour and self-parody in his numerous on-screen appearances – while inspiring people who would never normally engage with theoretical physics.
Hawking has also been played twice on screen – by Eddie Redmayne in the Oscar-winning film The Theory of Everything, and in 2004 by Benedict Cumberbatch for a BBC TV drama.
Stephen Hawking with Benedict Cumberbatch in Radio Times in 2004
Check out some of his best TV cameos below.
While many of the world’s biggest stars have voiced their delight at guest-starring in a single episode of The Simpsons, Hawking appeared multiple times in the animated comedy.
Stephen Hawking voiced himself on The Simpsons nearly a dozen times. After once making a bold scientific statement, Homer backed him up, saying “Larry Flynt is right!” Apparently, both Hawking and Flynt have gone on the record saying they found this incredibly funny. pic.twitter.com/Eus69emZfM
In his first appearance, he offers sage advice to Lisa…
“Don’t worry Lisa, sometimes even the smartest among us are the most childish”
It’s no surprise that Futurama – a show jam-packed with nerdy jokes – featured the planet’s most famous scientist. In the show, Hawking teams up with renegades such as Al Gore, and lends his voice to a ruthless version of himself who’s willing to take the credit for every scientific achievement possible.
“Are you the guy who invented gravity?” Fry asks.
“Yeah sure, why not.”
Here’s a compilation of his finest Simpsons and Futurama moments:
In Comic Relief 2015, the physicist usurped Matt Lucas as David Walliams’ ostensibly wheelchair-bound friend for a one-off sketch. It showcased his comic timing, as well as the capacity to transform into a murderous mechanical robot.
I recently took part in a Little Britain sketch because I enjoy the show and loved the script they put together. It was done in support of Comic Relief: Red Nose Day that funds so many worthwhile causes. http://apple.co/1HXYFxV -SH
He also appeared on Comic Relief in 2017, searching for a ‘replacement voice’…
The Big Bang Theory
Another show, another deadpan put-down from Hawking. He appeared in the hugely popular US sitcom when super-geek Sheldon Cooper was given the chance to meet him. He promptly corrects Sheldon’s arithmetic, rendering all his research useless.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Hawking has lent his voice to the latest series of Hitchhiker’s as The Guide Mark II.
David Morley, producer of the new series, said, “When we were thinking of cameos for the new series I suddenly thought of Professor Stephen Hawking. Douglas Adams’ work is admired by many of the world’s top scientists because of its innovative and hilarious twisting of the real universe, so I took a punt and asked the Professor if he’d like to actually play a role in the new series.
“It turned out that he was a huge fan of Hitchhiker’s and was keen to see the script. He very quickly came back with a resounding ‘yes’, and [producer] Dirk Maggs and I were jumping up and down with joy. His part blends perfectly with the actors. The results are fantastic.”
Hawking made a surprise appearance in Monty Python’s live tour comeback. Once again, he revealed his mischievous side as he ominously sped on to screen and bowled over Professor Brian Cox (literally) before enthusiastically giving a rendition of The Galaxy Song.
In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Hawking plays poker with the other greatest minds in the universe: Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton.
Late Night with Conan O’Brien
In one of history’s greatest meetings of minds, Stephen Hawking rang Jim Carrey to discuss the revolutionary ekpyrotic theory of the universe on Conan O’Brien’s chat show. Truly the stuff of scientific folklore.
Desert Island Discs
Hawking appeared with Sue Lawley on the long-running Radio 4 series in 1992. His choice of tracks? The Beatles’ Please Please Me, Edith Piad’s Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien and classical works by Puccini, Mozart, Wagner, Beethoven, Brahms and Poulenc. Listen to the interview in full here.
Hawking also delivered the Reith Lectures on Radio 4 in 2016, speaking about black holes. Watch an animation based on the lectures from Aardman Studios below.