The comedian, 55, was diagnosed with head and neck cancer after finding a lump in April 2022, and was treated at the Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff, where he had been a fundraising patron for a decade before his diagnosis.
Joining a live audience at The Francis Crick Institute in London he opened the show’s comedy roast with some lighthearted commentary about his recent plight after recently receiving the ‘all clear’ from the disease.
He began: ‘Tonight’s show is coming from you completely live, and although the prospect of dying on stage in front of millions of viewers is terrifying.
‘For the last year I’ve been more scared of dying alone on a hospital floor in a pool of my own urine.’
He’s back: Rhod Gilbert, 55, made an emotional return to the TV on Friday to host the Channel 4 special Stand Up to Cancer: The Takeover
As the audience responded he hit back: ‘You don’t have to aw me! I’m alright about and you should be too.
‘Being a live show it can got either way, which are incidentally also the words my doctors used this time last year,’ he joked.
‘I’m here because for the last year I’ve had cancer and now I don’t! It was in my tonsils, neck and tongue.’
The live show was kicked off by Davina McCall as she co-hosted alongside Adam Hills, Joe Lycett and Munya Chawawa.
The evening’s entertainment on Channel 4, featured 90 minutes of comedy and music from Rita Ora.
A whole host of celebrities appeared on the show including Strictly’s Oti Mabuse and actress Cush Jumbo, known for her role in The Good Wife.
Following on from the show was a brand new episode of Celebrity Gogglebox and then a nail-biting finale of Don’t Look Down with Paddy McGuinness.
The end of the night was rounded off with The SU2C Comedy Roast hosted by Rhod.
Raising awareness: The comedian was diagnosed with head and neck cancer after finding a lump in April 2022, and was treated at the Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff
Feeling better: Joining a live audience at The Francis Crick Institute in London he opened the show’s comedy roast with some lighthearted commentary about his recent plight
Over the last 10 years Rhod has raised almost £2 million for cancer care and research.
During a fundraising trek he noticed a few symptoms which later turned out to be head and neck cancer.
Rhod’s experience has been captured in his upcoming Channel 4 documentary Rhod Gilbert: A Pain In The Neck.
The programme follows the Welshman from his diagnosis and treatment through intimate video diaries.
Describing the decision to film his cancer journey, Rhod said: ‘I was lying in bed on the Friday, with my treatment due to start the following Monday.
‘I rang the team I knew – there was no broadcaster on board, it was all on spec – and I asked, “How would you fancy joining me on this journey?”
‘It was partly for me. I’d cancelled all my TV work and tours, and I wanted to have something other than “cancer” in my diary.
‘I knew I wouldn’t be well enough to go on stage or TV, but I thought I might be well enough to lie in bed and talk to a documentary team about how ill I was. I thought, “It will give me something to do”.’
The documentary is set to air on Monday October 30, as part of Channel 4’s Stand Up To Cancer campaign.
Earlier this year, Rhod revealed that he ‘ironically’ first found the tumour in his neck while he was in Cuba on a trek to fundraise for Velindre Cancer Centre charity, where he then became a patient.
He returned to screens for the first time since his diagnosis in February as he made a moving speech during the National Comedy Awards, which was in aid of Stand Up 2 Cancer.
Speaking in the pre-recorded segment from his home, he revealed he struggled to ‘speak or breathe’ after finding a lump on his neck.
Rhod said: ‘I couldn’t speak or breathe and I was postponing and cancelling tour shows, I had terrible spasms in my face and a lot of tightness in my muscles.
‘Couldn’t get to the bottom of it, turns out after a biopsy of this lump in my neck that I have something called head and neck cancer, cancer of the head, sounded pretty serious.’
Return: He returned to screens for the first time since his diagnosis in February as he made a moving speech during the National Comedy Awards, which was in aid of Stand Up 2 Cancer
Candid: Speaking in the pre-recorded segment from his home, he revealed he struggled to ‘speak or breathe’ after finding a lump on his neck
Rhod admitted that his diagnosis ‘p***ed him off’ as he joked he thought he would have ‘life-long immunity’ after spending 10 years as a patron for a cancer centre.
He said: ‘I’ve led five fundraising treks all over the world, I do stand-up comedy nights to raise money, I hosted quizzes… it’s been a big part of my life for the last 10 years, so imagine my surprise when I was diagnosed with cancer.
‘Which p***ed me off no end, because I thought I’d have life-long immunity! Apparently not.
‘Apparently you’re just as likely to get cancer even if you spend your time fundraising for a cancer hospital. Anyway, I did get it, and it turns out it can come for anybody.’
He added: ‘The other irony is that I was in Cuba on a trek, fundraising for this cancer centre when the first b****y lump popped up in my neck. I literally left as a patron and came back as a patient.’
Last month, Rhod announced he is planning to return to the stage and is in the midst of planning a 2024 comedy tour, after admitting ‘life’s too short’.
His last tour, Book Of John, ran from 2019 to June 2023, due to interruptions with his health and the pandemic.
In an interview on BBC Radio Wales, Rhod said he was very grateful to the Velindre Cancer Centre for ‘getting me back on my feet’.
He added: ‘My new attitude is that life’s too short, you’ve got to crack on and do these things.’
He continued: ‘I’ve been scribbling away, I’ve got a few ideas and I’ve been trying some stuff out.
‘I think I’m going to tour again next year, it’s all taking shape at the moment.’
Comeback: Last month, Rhod announced he is planning to return to the stage and is in the midst of planning a 2024 comedy tour, after admitting ‘life’s too short’ (pictured in 2018)
Rhod has also said he will use his cancer diagnosis as standup material, because he thinks about his cancer 24/7 but added there is ‘humour in it.’
Speaking to The Guardian, he confessed: ‘It does feel weird. I don’t know how much to talk about the cancer. I haven’t really worked out what to say.
‘I’m really aware of mental health now and I’m checking in with myself every day. I feel fine, weirdly. I’m happy, optimistic and hopeful that next year it’ll all come good.
‘When I get through this, the next show will be in a similar vein. The cancer is on my mind 24/7, but, when I’m well enough to write, I’m jotting down a few things. And there is humour in there, definitely.’
WHAT IS HEAD AND NECK CANCER?
Head and neck cancer is an umbrella term for cancers of the nose, mouth, throat, voice box, thyroid and salivary glands.
It is the eighth most common form of cancer in the UK with over 12,000 cases diagnosed each year.
There are more than 30 areas within the head and neck where the cancer can develop including the mouth, lips, voice box, throat and saliva glands.
Mouth cancer is the most common type of head and neck cancer, while laryngeal can develop in the tissue of the voice box.
Thyroid cancer, brain tumours, eye cancer and oesophageal cancer are not normally classified as types of head and neck cancers.