Today the world bids farewell to one of its most incredible minds, as Stephen Hawking has passed away at the age of 76 – despite being given just two years to live back in 1963.
But Hawking wasn’t just one of the important theoretical physicists of our time. He also had a wicked sense of humor, and frequently took the chance to show it off.
So here are some of the times Hawking made us crack up with his wit. Gone but not forgotten, Hawking will be remembered not only for his brilliant mind, but also his ability to draw a smile from pretty much anyone.
That Time He Ran Over Prince Charles’s Feet Because He Didn’t Like Him
Stephen Hawking was confined to a wheelchair in 1969 at the age of 27, as the effects of motor neurone disease (MND) took their toll on him.
But he didn’t let that stop him having a bit of fun.
A biography of the scientist titled Stephen Hawking: An Unfettered Mind discussed a time in 1976 when he was invited to London to witness Prince Charles’s induction into the Royal Society.
“The prince was intrigued by Hawking’s wheelchair, and Hawking, twirling it around to demonstrate its capabilities, carelessly ran over Prince Charles’s toes,” it read.
“Soon rumour had it that running over toes was not always accidental, and eventually it would get around that one of Hawking’s regrets in life was not having an opportunity to run over Margaret Thatcher’s toes. People who annoyed him, it was said, found themselves a target.
“’A malicious rumour,” insists Hawking. ‘I’ll run over anyone who repeats it.’”
That Time He Schooled John Oliver
In 2014, Hawking was interviewed by British comedian John Oliver on the show Last Week Tonight.
While they covered quite a variety of topics, from artificial intelligence to parallel universes, Hawking took the opportunity to have a dig at Oliver. Sure, it was scripted, but it was great all the same.
“You’ve stated that you believe there could be an infinite number of parallel universes,” said Oliver. “Does that mean there is a universe out there where I am smarter than you?”
“Yes,” replied Hawking. “And also a universe where you’re funny.”
That Time He Appeared On The Simpsons
Hawking was not averse to being on TV, making appearances on everything from Futurama to Star Trek: The Next Generation.
He even made his way into Series 10 of The Simpsons, in a brilliant episode called “They Saved Lisa’s Brain”.
In the episode, a group of self-proclaimed intellectuals take over the running of Springfield when Mayor Quimby does a runner, leading to them trying to impose their intellectualism on everyone else. But their rules anger the local people, with the group then trying to prove how smart they are by listing off their IQ scores.
“Big deal, my IQ is 280,” Hawking says as he shows up unexpectedly. “I wanted to see your utopia, but now I see it is more of a fruitopia.”
He then sucker punches Principal Skinner with a boxing glove before turning his wheelchair into a helicopter and making his escape. It’s a really hilarious scene. Check it out below.
(Note: Hawking wasn’t really a fan of IQ scores, and had said that people who boasted about their IQs were “losers”.)
That Time He Bemoaned His Celebrity Status
In an interview on Israeli TV in December 2006, Hawking described how being a celebrity wasn’t always that great, especially when he wanted to be incognito.
“The downside of my celebrity is that I cannot go anywhere in the world without being recognized,” he said.
“It is not enough for me to wear dark sunglasses and a wig. The wheelchair gives me away.”
That Time He Insulted Eddie Redmayne
British actor Eddie Redmayne portrayed Hawking in the 2014 film The Theory of Everything, looking back at the life of the physicist, and he did a brilliant job of it too.
Hawking supplied his own voice for the film, which he said he was happy to do to give Redmayne “a bit of a boost in his effort to win an Oscar” – which he did.
But he had time for a quick jab, too. “Unfortunately, Eddie did not inherit my good looks.” Ouch, Stephen. Ouch.
That Time He Transformed Into A Giant Robot
Every two years the UK charity Comic Relief runs an event called Red Nose Day, where money is raised for a variety of projects around the world to tackle poverty.
Celebrities usually take part in comedy sketches as part of the event to raise awareness, and Hawking was no exception. In 2015, he took part in a sketch for TV show Little Britain, in which he gets chided for his supposedly fanciful views.
The sketch ends with him, well, transforming into a giant robot complete with a laser cannon. It’s really rather wonderful. Watch it below.
That Time He Revealed The One Mystery He Found Most Intriguing
Hawking took park in a Reddit AMA in 2015, answering questions from users on a variety of topics.
While he took the time to explain some more complex theories, he was also asked what was the one mystery he found the most intriguing.
“Women,” he said. “My PA reminds me that although I have a PhD in physics women should remain a mystery.”
He made similar comments to New Scientist in 2012, when asked what he thought most about during the day.
“Women,” he replied. “They are a complete mystery.”
Farewell, Stephen. You gave us some wonderful moments over the years, and your legacy will live long into the future.