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Stephen Hawking’s Love for The Simpsons Was Deeper Than You Know
To think a man like Stephen Hawking—who invented the framework of general relativity—would spend precious brain power appearing on The Simpsons is quite the compliment for the long-running animated series. He appeared on the show a number of times over the years, and even would drop into table reads and tell jokes with the writers and cast.
After Hawking’s death on Wednesday, The Simpsons showrunner Al Jean recalled the theoretical physicist’s first appearance on the show in May 1999.
“One thing about him that is maybe not as well known, he had a tremendous sense of humor,” Jean told The Hollywood Reporter. “He would tell jokes when he came to our table reads, which he did several times.”
Hawking appeared on the Season 10 episode “They Saved Lisa’s Brain,” where he visits Springfield after the town is taken over by its Mensa chapter. The scientist chides the group’s arrogance, especially when they try to do things like banning all contact sports.
In one of the episode’s best jokes, Homer mistakes Hawking for Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, yelling, “Larry Flynt is right! You guys stink!”
“Mr. Hawking read it and allowed it. The joke is Homer is an idiot. In no way was it critical of Mr. Hawking,” Jean told The Hollywood Reporter, adding that Hawking did have one request.
He did say at one point that he did not want to be drunk onscreen. That was the only note we got from him. He didn’t mind having a beer with Homer at Moe’s [in the end of “Lisa’s Brain”], but not more.
Hawking ended up appearing on The Simpsons four times between 1999 and 2010, and would occasionally just drop by for table reads, as executive producer and writer Matt Selman tells AV Club:
One year, or a couple of years, he was just hanging out—he would come to table reads and be there hanging out … I think he saw that there’s a certain absurdity in everything, like in trying to figure out the laws of the universe or silly Simpsons stories. I think he shared that absurdist sense of humor. Our show is sort of about trying to find meaning in a chaotic world—I think he related to that as well.
Certainly, there can be no highest honor for The Simpsons than to be a favorite show of one of the smartest men in human history.