Stephen Hawking’s sense of humour was well known.
The theoretical physicist, who died at the age of 76, was widely considered to be the most intelligent human being in the world for his extensive knowledge of quantum mechanics and black holes, as well as being the first person to set out a modern theory of cosmology.
The scientist suffered from ALS, a degenerative motor neuron disease, which gradually rendered him paralysed.
However, Professor Hawking was a fierce advocate for making the most of life, and in an interview with Radio Times, he said the one thing that “inspired” him to keep going was his work, and his sense of humour:
When I turned 21, my expectations were reduced to zero. You probably know this already because there’s been a movie about it. It was important that I came to appreciate what I did have. Although I was unfortunate to get motor neurone disease, I’ve been very fortunate in almost everything else.
I’ve been lucky to work in theoretical physics at a fascinating time, and it's one of the few areas in which my disability is not a serious handicap. It’s also important not to become angry, no matter how difficult life is, because you can lose all hope if you can’t laugh at yourself and at life in general.
His quick witted one-liners were the stuff of legend. Here are a few of them:
1. That time he made a quip about One Direction.
A member of the audience at a talk he delivered at the Sydney Opera House asked him about the “cosmological effect of Zayn Malik leaving One Direction”.
Finally, a question about something important.
My advice to any heartbroken young girl is to pay close attention to the study of theoretical physics. Because one day there may well be proof of multiple universes.
It would not be beyond the realms of possibility that somewhere outside of our own universe lies another different universe. And in that universe Zayn is still in One Direction
This girl may like to note that in another possible universe she and Zayn are happily married.
2. His appearances on The Simpsons.
Stephen Hawking’s appearances on a bunch of popular shows was always a hilarious tongue-in-cheek commentary about himself.
But it was his ‘mean Stephen Hawking’ role on The Simpsons that was always met with hilarity.
3. That Brexit joke.
The multi-award winning cosmologist famously said it would be a “terrible mistake” to ignore the populism behind the votes for Brexit and Donald Trump in the US.
During ITV’s Pride of Britain Awards in 2016, Professor Hawking told Theresa May:
I deal in tough mathematical questions every day, but please don’t ask me to help with Brexit.
4. The time he faced Paul Rudd in an epic chess match.
In the comedy skit, Professor Hawking watches a kitten dressed in a monkey suit eating a banana before he gets a call from Paul Rudd, who challenges him to a game of chess. Obviously.
Highlights of his dialogue include:
I shall crush you like an ant. Man.
How? I did not touch your bishop.
5. The veiled Donald Trump joke
During an announcement of his Starshot Project for interstellar travel in 2016 (which happened to be during the US presidential elections), he showed that he could be as funny as he was clever.
When asked what intelligent life looked like, he said:
What makes human beings unique? Some say it’s language or tools. Others say it’s logical reasoning. They obviously haven’t met many humans.
6. Professor Hawking's history with Red Nose Day
He was asked to make “snot jokes” for Red Nose Day in 2017
He had said:
I’m m a world-renowned scientist who has shaped our understanding of the universe and I am being asked to make snot jokes.
I must really like this charity.
In the video, he watches famous actors like Liam Neeson “audition” for the role of his trademark voice.
Are you kidding?