'The Simpsons' Paid Perfect Tribute To Fan And Guest Star Stephen Hawking

"I think he saw that there’s a certain absurdity in everything."

Tributes to theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking have poured in since his death last week at age 76 — and one which aired on television Sunday night was particularly special. The latest episode of The Simpsons on Fox ended with an image of cartoon Hawking flying with character Lisa Simpson in the helicopter wheelchair he used in his guest appearances on the show.

Executive producer Matt Selman posted the image on Twitter after the show. It reads, "In loving memory of Stephen Hawking." When Hawking died, Selman called him "the most intelligent guest star in the brief history of The Simpsons." According to Newsweek, he appeared in four episodes since 1999.

But he was more than just a guest star — he was also a fan. As Selman told The A.V. Club, Hawking would even come to the show's table reads. "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," Selman said. "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."

Showrunner Al Jean told The Hollywood Reporter that Hawking's only request for his appearances on the show was that he not appear drunk on screen — although he has a beer with Homer at the end of one episode. He even approved of a joke in which Homer mistakes him for Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, who also uses a wheelchair. 

"The appeal of The Simpsons is that the characters display all the traits we see in ourselves," Hawking once said of the series, calling it "the best thing on American television" and adding, "Almost as many people know me through The Simpsons as through my science."

Hawking also showed off his sense of humor elsewhere, appearing in other shows such as Futurama and The Big Bang Theory. In 2015, he played along with a question about Zayn Malik leaving One Direction, and last year he participated in a Red Nose Day skit, in which celebrities audition to be his new voice.

See Hawking chat with Homer Simpson in the video below:

(H/T: Mashable)

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