The Simpsons paid tribute to the late Professor Stephen Hawking last night.
The show was a favourite of Hawking’s. He not only made four guest appearances, he also occasionally just hung out in the writers’ room.
As weird as it is to think about, when he was in LA, Hawking would go along to table reads of the show and just watch and enjoy them. Matt Selman, a writer on the show, told the BBC: “We would show up for an episode - there’s Dan Castellaneta, voice of Homer, there’s the writers, there’s the show’s creator Matt Groening - and there’s Stephen Hawking, just 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 humour. Our show is sort of about trying to find meaning in a chaotic world—I think he related to that as well.”
When he made his most famous appearance on the show in the episode ’They Saved Lisa’s Brain’, Selman was impressed that, rather than just having the script pasted into his voice synthesiser, he re-entered it in himself.
“What was really cool is that he typed all the lines into his own speech computer himself and that’s what we recorded. So he went into the recording studio, put the script into his computer and then his computer spat it out, instead of us just getting the computer to read it out directly. I like that he would sit and take all the time to type the goofy lines into his computer - I like the fact that he had to put the word ‘fruitopia’ into his special talking machine.”
Hawking contributed ideas to the episode as well, suggesting the joke where Homer mistakes him for wheelchair-using pornographer Larry Flynt. He did, however, make the writers walk back a bit where he would have been portrayed as drunk on screen.
Like so many Simpsons guest stars, he was further immortalised in action figure form.
That costs a lot more on eBay now than it did a few weeks ago.
Hawking was immensely proud of his appearances on what he called “the best show on American television”, joking in a conversation wth Brian Cox that the biggest misconception people made about his work was that he was a Simpsons character.
Last night, a new episode ended with this tribute, featuring Hawking riding in his helicopter wheelchair.
Farewell, old friend.
(Image: Fox/Matt Groening/Screengrab)