Professor Stephen Hawking may well have been one of the greatest minds of our time, but he never took himself too seriously.
The physicist often seized the opportunity to appear on TV and in the movies. Here are some of his most inspired moments on screen…
The Big Bang Theory
Being something of a prince amongst geeks himself, Hawking was frequently referenced in geek sitcom The Big Bang Theory. A hero of Sheldon, Leonard, Rajesh, and Howard, who often pulls out his Hawking impression in the show, he notably played himself in The Hawking Excitation in 2012, where he visits Caltech. Handing back a paper to Sheldon, he quips: “You made an arithmetic mistake on page two. It was quite the boner.” (He also sang Happy Birthday to Sheldon over Skype for the show’s 200th birthday episode).
In the episode They Saved Lisa’s Brain, Hawking headed down to Moe’s for a frosty Duff with Homer, where he compliments his rotund host about his theory of a ‘donut-shaped universe’. “I can’t believe I guy I never heard of is hanging out with a guy like me,” says Homer. When Homer tries to con Hawking into paying the bill, he’s thwacked by the boxing glove attachment on Hawking’s wheelchair. Hawking appeared in four episodes in all.
Hawking lent his voice to three episodes of Futurama, perhaps best in The Beast with a Billion Backs. After stunning Professor Farnsworth and Professor Wernstrom with laser beams coming from his eyes, he quips: “I didn’t know I could do that.”
A sketch for the annual fundraiser found a mock ‘casting process’ for a ‘new voice’ for the physics luminary. Liam Neeson, Rebel Wilson, Anna Kendrick, Kylie, Miss Piggy, Stephen Fry, Gordon Ramsay and Simon Cowell were among those who pitched for the gig. And some guy called Bill Gates. “Not a chance,” said Hawking.
Another appearance in aid of Comic Relief, he was wheeled around the cloisters of Cambridge in his wheelchair by David Walliams’ Lou Todd, of Lou and Andy fame (from their sketch show Little Britain). “There’s some ducks, you like ducks, don’t you? What sound do ducks make?” says Andy. “I’m late for my lecture on the holes of the universe,” spits Hawking back.
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Hawking appeared as a hologram of himself in the classic sci-fi series, playing poker with fellow geniuses Einstein and Newton. While Data deals, and the banter flows, Enstein ribs Newton. “Oh not the apple story again,” he says.