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Brief history of Stephen Hawking’s cameos

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    Media captionStephen Hawking: Pop culture hero

    For all of his academic work on mind-boggling scientific concepts, Stephen Hawking was also known to many for something else: his many cameos on TV, film and radio.

    His most recent was broadcast just last week, as the voice of the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy Mark II – a powerful being known on our planet as Prof Hawking.

    “I have been quite popular in my time,” the character says in the BBC Radio 4 adaptation. “Some even read my books.”

    It’s that self-deprecating humour that characterised Prof Hawking’s appearances. Here’s a brief look at some of them.

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    Media captionThe scientist is the voice of the latest version of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

    Little Britain for Comic Relief

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    Image caption Prof Hawking with David Walliams and Catherine Tate

    Prof Hawking had the mother of all wheelchair adaptations when it allowed him to become a transformer-type machine in a Little Britain sketch for Comic Relief.

    He’s seen being pushed through the grounds of a college at the University of Cambridge by Lou Todd – usually seen with wheelchair user Andy Pipkin.

    When Prof Hawking gets fed up with Lou’s patronising chat (about Peppa Pig, among other things), he says: “Professor Stephen Hawking bot, transform”.

    He blasts Catherine Tate (playing an equally patronising nun) with a ray gun before chasing after Lou and turning the gun on him, before leaving the scene with a “ha ha ha”.

    The Big Bang Theory

    Sheldon gets to hand over his paper on the Higgs boson to his idol in The Hawking Excitation – which has also seen Howard working on Prof Hawking’s wheelchair when he comes to their university to lecture.

    When Sheldon meets Prof Hawking, he tells him it’s an “honour and a privilege” to meet him – to which Prof Hawking replies: “I know.”

    He then goes on to tell Sheldon he’s made a mistake in one of his calculations, causing Sheldon to faint.

    “Great, another fainter,” he says.

    In another episode, The Extract Obliteration, he appears making a phone call to Sheldon – having played a game of Words With Friends online with him. He calls Sheldon “Dr Loser” instead of Dr Cooper and asks: “What does Sheldon Cooper and a black hole have in common? They both suck.”

    Comic Relief originals

    The “renowned scientist and occasional sitcom star” is seen auditioning celebrities all hoping to provide his new voice in another clip for Comic Relief.

    Prof Hawking listens to pleas from stars including Liam Neeson, Rebel Wilson, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Kylie Minogue as they all seek to persuade him to use their vocal talents.

    “No, not a chance” he tells Simon Cowell, before slightly swearily telling Gordon Ramsay: “I don’t think anyone would take me (beeped out) seriously if I sounded like that.”

    Star Wars’ John Boyega gets a slightly better reaction, with Prof Hawkins saying: “Wowsers.”

    But he’s not the one to ultimately get the gig, as the clip above shows…

    Monty Python – The Meaning of Live

    Prof Hawking pre-recorded a clip with Brian Cox for Monty Python’s 2014 live reunion shows – in which he’s seen running over his fellow physicist as he’s explaining the expansion of the universe.

    “I think you’re being pedantic,” he tells Prof Cox as he knocks him over (well, or a stunt double does), before launching into a version of Monty Python’s The Galaxy Song.

    Star Trek: The Next Generation

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    Image caption Prof Hawking with the characters of Albert Einstein and Sir Isaac Newton

    In an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, he appeared as a hologram playing cards with Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein.

    When Sir Isaac pompously started to explain how he discovered gravity, Hawking protested: “Not the apple story again.”

    Off camera, as he was being shown the USS Enterprise’s warp drive, he reportedly quipped: “I’m working on that.”


    In TV animation Futurama, the perennially dim Phillip J Fry asked Prof Hawking: “Aren’t you that physicist that invented gravity?”.

    The scientist, playing himself, replied: “Sure. Why not?”

    He appeared in a total of three episodes of the animated series.

    The Simpsons

    Prof Hawking once commented that “almost as many people know me through The Simpsons as through my science”.

    Whether that’s true is debatable – but his stints on the long-running cartoon have been among his most memorable guest appearances.

    He first appeared in 1999 episode They Saved Lisa’s Brain, with his wheelchair loaded with gadgets.

    He not only knocks out Principal Skinner, using a boxing glove on a spring, but then flies off with the help of helicopter blades, saving Lisa Simpson from a collapsing bandstand in the process.

    He also tells Homer his doughnut-shaped universe theory is “intriguing” – and that he may steal it.

    “I hope I wouldn’t use the boxing glove – though sometimes I am sorely tempted,” he said. “But helicopter blades would be very useful.”

    His cartoon self came about as his daughter Lucy knew one of the scriptwriters.

    “The episode was very funny,” he added.

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