In the long history of television guest stars, there has never been a smarter person than Stephen Hawking to play a cameo. And physicists have pretty much done that.
In 1993, he appeared on a Star Trek: The Next Generation practice poker with Data, Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton. (Hawking, holding four diamonds, crushes Einstein.) As a cartoon character, he has made four episodes about The Simpsons (a show he called “the best show on American television”) and in one decided to steal Homer’s idea of a “donut-shaped universe”.
After he passed away in 2018 at the age of 76, The Hollywood Reporter quoted showrunner Al Jean as saying that the only restriction Hawking placed on his appearance was that “he didn’t want to get drunk on screen. That was the only note we got from him. He doesn’t mind having a beer with Homer at Moe’s, but no more than that. ‘In many ways, the TV that best suits Hawking is with CBS’ The Big Bang Theory, a comedy with physics lovers at its heart. He was part of the storyline, often voiced, for seven episodes. His most significant appearance was on a 2012 show called “The Hawking Excitation.” The story goes that he went to Pasadena to teach at Caltech. Jim Parsons’ character, Sheldon, who humbly believes that Hawking is “probably my only wit,” jumps through hoops to meet the physicist and has his thesis read out “come to me one evening.” light in a shower” about the Higgs boson.
Hawking declared before delivering the bad news: “You clearly have a brilliant mind. You made an arithmetic error on page two. It’s a pretty good tool. When Sheldon fell, Hawking said, “Wonderful, another paler.” Said Big Bang creator Chuck Lorre: “All of Professor Hawking’s dialogue was pre-programmed and triggered through a speech synthesizer. When we offered to do it, we were told he’d prefer to program and trigger the dialogue himself. He wants ‘action’. ”
This story first appeared in the June issue of The Hollywood Reporter. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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