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.
Little Britain for Comic Relief
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 Hawking saying: “Wowsers.”
But he’s not the one to ultimately get the gig, as the clip above shows…