Stephen Hawking’s adventures in pop culture

He was possibly the smartest person in the world and did not take himself seriously

Genius, physicist, A Brief History of Time author and all-round cool dude Professor Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76. Daytime show This Morning accidentally played a clip of Meghan Trainor’s ‘All About That Bass’ over his eulogy. It’s a gaffe that would no doubt make Hawking smile, given that – as we shall see – the man had a universe-sized sense of humour.

Star Trek: The Next Generation

Sir Isaac Newton! Albert Einstein! Data from Star Trek! In this 1993 episode, entitled ‘Descent’, Professor Hawking plays cards with some of the finest minds from history and proves himself the skit’s comic star, electronically groaning, “Not the apple story again” when Newton gets back on his bullshit. A real sit-down comedian.

Monty Python Live (mostly)

The comedy heroes returned for a (by their own admission) final cash grab on the stage at London’s O2 in 2014, for which Hawking recorded this jaunty ditty that delivers a real sense of perspective (“The sun and you and me / And all stars that we can see / Are moving at a million miles a day”) with his trademark wit and verve. Kanye would be jealous of that Auto-Tune.

The Simpsons

We all know Hawking was chill AF, but here were find him in ice-cold mode, kicking it with Homer in Moe’s Tavern, listening to theory of a “donut-shaped universe”. One Milky Way bar and a donut-shaped universe, please!

The Big Bang Theory

Hawking proved he liked a laugh with this episode of the sitcom The Big Bang Theory, in which he spotted an mistake in boffin Sheldon’s mathematics. Actor Johnny Galecki, who plays Dr. Leonard Hofstadter in the show, paid tribute on Instagram, writing: “Not only your brilliance, but your sense of humour will be sorely missed by all. ‘Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny.’ – Stephen Hawking.”

Little Britain

Cheerfully unwoke mid-noughties sketch show Little Britain featured David Walliams and Matt Lucas as carer Lou and Andy, his friend who claims to be wheelchair-bound but is, in fact, no such thing. In this Comic Relief bit from 2015, which sees the physicist pushed around by Lou, he ends up so annoyed with being undermined that he transforms into a massive robot. That’s what you get when your force Professor Stephen Hawking to repeat inane catchphrases.

I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!

A controversy that wasn’t. Appearing on reality show I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, TV star Scarlett Moffatt claimed she’d emailed Hawking about a dubious new theory she’d come up with (“I think someone from the future realised we’d need them from the future, so went back in time and build the pyramids”) but not received a reply. Hosts Ant and Dec later received a fake call from Hawking, using a robotic voice to to convey his supposed thoughts on the matter. There was a minor outcry, but Hawking later contacted the show to say he “enjoyed” the skit.

Kicking it with Peter Stringfellow

At the grubby end of pop culture, professional creep Peter Stringfellow paid tribute to Hawking on Twitter, sharing a photo that also appears on the strip joint mogul’s website with the caption: “I had a drink and a chat with him. I asked him how he felt about having a conversation with me about the universe or if he would prefer to watch the girls. His answer was quite simply ‘The girls’. Of course this was though his computerised voice box but the guy just simply blew me away.”

Loving Depeche Mode

There’s a music industry rumour that Hawking, a massive fan of 80s synth-poppers Depeche Mode, repeatedly emailed the band to ask for guestlist, a request that fell on deaf emails. When he then put in for a meet-and-greet, they reportedly replied to their record label: “[We] always get letters off this bloke, trying to blag tickets. Who the fuck is he anyway?”

Futurama

Simpsons and Futurama creator Matt Groening was clearly a Hawking fan, having him appear on both seminal shows. He starred three times in the latter, attributing bad things in the universe to “magnets”. Don’t know about you, but we’re drawn to that theory.

Duetting with Pink Floyd

Finally, classic rockers Pink Floyd sampled Hawking’s words on the song ‘Keep Talking’, taken from 1994 album ‘The Division Bell’. He’d appeared in a 2013 Go Compare advert and it was this audio that was used on the track. Why would he do an advert? The universe provides… easy money if you’re a bloody genius.