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Stephen Hawking was as much of a treasure in the entertainment world as he was in the scientific world.
The theoretical physicist, best-selling author and University of Cambridge professor — who died Wednesday at the age of 76 — forever changed how people looked at the stars. He also had a killer sense of humor.
“One thing about him that is maybe not as well known, he had a tremendous sense of humor,” Jean said. “He would tell jokes when he came to our table reads, which he did several times.”
The world-renowned scientist first appeared on the Fox cartoon in May 1999 on the season 10 episode, “They Saved Lisa’s Brain.”
Playing himself, Hawking goes to Springfield after the town becomes under control of its newly created Mensa chapter. The power, of course, goes to the group’s head and it is a visit by Hawking, who expresses displeasure with the group’s arrogance, that helps make things right.
Arguably one of the most classic jokes — not only of the episode, but the entire series — comes toward the end, after Hawking says his piece and Homer yells, “Larry Flynt is right! You guys stink!”
Jean said that gem was all him.
“Mr. Hawking read it and allowed it,” Jean said. “The joke is Homer is an idiot. In no way was it critical of Mr. Hawking.”
But, there was a gag Hawking wanted to avoid.
“He did say at one point that he did not want to be drunk onscreen,” Jean said. “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.”
Calling him the “smartest” guest the show ever welcomed, Jean noted that Hawking was as big a rock star as any other celebrity when he dropped by the studio.
“Everyone wanted to get their picture taken with him,” he said. “It was an honor to be able to briefly interact with the Albert Einstein of our time. I still can’t get over it.”
Hawking appeared on the show three times, including the May 2005 episode, “Don’t Fear the Roofer,” which parodied A Beautiful Mind, and the September 2010 episode, “Elementary School Musical.” He also appeared on Matt Groening’s Futurama and was immortalized in the toy world as a Simpsons action figure.
“He popularized science for people who may not have been interested in it. And that is something we have tried to do on The Simpsons: Put science and math inside the show,” Jean said. “He was certainly a hero to all of us.”
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