Quick: name the greatest mind of our time, excluding anyone with the surname “Kardashian.” It’s more than likely your thoughts then fell to Stephen Hawking, right? Well TV Guide is reporting that the undisputed rock god of theoretical physics is the “super-secret, super-cool guest star” that The Big Bang Theory executive producer Bill Prady has been teasing in his tweets recently. The CBS comedy is doing a rare location shoot to accommodate Hawking’s appearance, and while details are under wraps, all will be revealed when the episode airs on April 5.
Hawking is certainly a huge get for the series, which has already featured walk-ons by such scientific luminaries as Dr. George Smoot and Dr. Brian Greene. But while it’s his first appearance on a live sitcom, it’s far from his first time poking fun at his own image on American TV.
Hawking famously played a hologram of himself in “Descent (Part I)," a 1993 episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. He was seated around a poker table with Sir Isaac Newton (played by John Neville, of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen) and Albert Einstein, engaged in a social experiment led by Data to see “how three of history’s greatest minds would interact.” Hawking takes the others for everything they got.
He also has appeared numerous times on The Simpsons, and while what I really wanted to find was his rap over a Flight of the Conchords song on Season 22’s "Elementary School Musical," Fox has been stingy with the online clips. So you’ll have to settle for this encounter between Homer and Hawking at Moe’s Pub, from Season 10’s “They Saved Lisa’s Brain.”
Hawking told the story of his involvement on the series: “The Simpsons is the best thing on American television,” he said, obviously never having been exposed to Love in the Wild’s groundbreaking first season.
In 2003, Hawking called in, for real, to Late Night with Conan O’Brien, to discuss theoretical physics with Jim Carrey. After tossing out a string of jargon complicated enough to fly over Conan’s giant pompadour, Carrey took a call from Hawking who told him how happy he was that Carrey was “excited about the new ekpyrotic universe theory,” then excused himself to watch Dumb & Dumber. (Later, Carrey explained how the bit came to be, and Hawking is a legitimate fan of his work, and The Cable Guy in particular.)
Finally Hawking has appeared three times as himself in episodes of Futurama. Most recently, in the episode called “Reincarnation” from Season 6, Hawking appears as an 8-bit video game version of himself.
Did I miss any of your favorite Stephen Hawking moments in pop culture? Let us know in the comments.