Rhod Gilbert says new comedy tour after cancer treatment ‘massively therapeutic’

The 55-year-old Welshman announced last July that he had cancer and was being treated at the Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff, where he had been a fundraising patron for a decade before the diagnosis.

He underwent surgery for metastatic cancer of the head and neck, followed by sessions of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, before receiving a clear scan later in the year.

After the positive update, Gilbert has embarked on a new stand-up tour, titled Rhod Gilbert & The Giant Grapefruit, with more than 130 dates across the UK.

He told the PA news agency: “I’m loving it, probably more than ever, I think. I think I’m probably happier on stage doing this show than I’ve ever been doing anything weirdly.

“I guess everything is heightened and life’s a little bit sweeter in every regard at the moment.

“I wasn’t sure that I’d ever do this again, frankly. So being back up there and doing it, and especially so soon after being diagnosed, it’s only 18 months since I first heard the word cancer, so to be on stage a year and half later doing a show about it is a bit bonkers.”

The show documents his experience from first developing symptoms, to being diagnosed and receiving treatment, up until his clear scan, as well as the emotional journey he went on.

“From the fright and the fear through to the pain and the suffering, out there to the relief,” he said.

“It is meant to be and it is, I think, very positive, upbeat and happy.”

Along the way, Gilbert “smuggles” in facts about cancer to help raise further awareness and he interacts with members of the audience who share their own experiences.

“Comedy is a really effective way of opening up conversations and making those conversations a safe and happy place,” he said.

“So I’m finding it massively therapeutic for me, but I think audiences are as well.

“I get bombarded with emails and letters. Pages and pages of stuff, people telling you their own stories.

“And it’s taking some power back, people who have got cancer, or had it, laughing about it and roaring at shared experiences, it just takes some power back.”

Gilbert said his health was doing “really well” at the moment but he still has a number of symptoms after treatment, including a dry mouth because his saliva glands are damaged, sore throat, difficulty swallowing and muscular spasms through his face and neck.

Despite the challenges, he said these are adjustments he can “happily live with”.

“I’m lapping up life far more than I ever did and you’ve just got to watch you don’t go too mad”, he said.

“I think you get such a lust for life and such an awareness of the fragility of it all that you’ve just got to watch you don’t say yes to too many things and go a bit nuts.”

He added: “Weirdly in my show, when I sum up at the end, I say ‘I’m not sorry I’ve got cancer or had it’, there’s so many positives to this.

“I realise how lucky I am that I’ve come through it, and hopefully will continue to be clear. But I’m loving life, as my Facebook update should say.”

His last tour, The Book Of John, which kicked off in 2019 and ran until 2023, explored finding humour when you have hit rock bottom.

He has been a regular guest on shows such as Would I Lie To You?, QI and Mock The Week over the years, and also hosted Never Mind The Buzzcocks from 2014 to 2015.

Rhod Gilbert & The Giant Grapefruit Tour is on now in theatres across the UK, with tickets available from his website.

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