How comedian Dai Henwood's latest routine deals with his cancer battle

  • 02/08/2023
  • Sponsored by - ANZ
Dai Henwood, ANZ Daffodil Day ambassador.
Dai Henwood, ANZ Daffodil Day ambassador. Photo credit: Supplied

While cancer is certainly no laughing matter, these days Dai Henwood does not shy away from tackling the often-taboo comedy topic in his stand-up.

Earlier this year, the much-loved comedian publicly revealed that he was living with incurable stage four bowel cancer. Since then, he says he has received an outpouring of support - from friends and strangers alike - and has even managed to crack a few jokes about it.  

Henwood, who is one of around 25,000 Kiwis diagnosed with cancer each year, is teaming up with ANZ as a Daffodil Day ambassador this month to help raise money for the Cancer Society. This includes  hosting a fundraising comedy event that will feature some of Aotearoa's top comedians as a way to help raise awareness and much needed funds for the organisation.

ANZ presents The Comedy Treatment, a show of support for the Cancer Society, will be held at Q Theatre in Auckland on August 24. All profits from ticket sales will be donated to the Cancer Society.

The show will also be aired live on Three and ThreeNow at 8:30pm on August 24 and viewers are being encouraged to make a donation in exchange for a laugh.

Since opening up about his cancer publicly in January, Henwood says "bits and bobs" of cancer-related material have inevitably ended up in his routine; however, most laughs come from the mundane day-to-day experiences that come along with living with the disease.

"I find the laughs don't come from cancer itself. I mean, it's the absurdities of some of the things I've been through with scans, etc which people can relate to," Henwood said.

Henwood says broaching the topic publicly has not only been a way to help himself deal with what he's going through but it's also been a way to forge a closer connection with this audience when performing.

"I sort of have to acknowledge the elephant in the room, and then I say, 'Look, I'm feeling happy and healthy right now, so let's just have a good time'. The first time I did that, I got this warm cheering and applause and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, these people are right behind me'."

Henwood says the outpouring of support from strangers has given him a renewed "appreciation for the world and the fact that humans are pretty awesome".

"There are a lot of really kind people out there," he said.

One invaluable source of support for the 45-year-old and his family throughout his battle has been the Cancer Society, which offers anyone fighting cancer a wealth of help and resources, from counselling and psychological services to transport to and from treatments and accommodation during treatments for people who need to travel away from home. 

"The fact that the Cancer Society delivers free services is huge," said Henwood, who is also an ambassador for ANZ, major sponsor of the Cancer Society. 

"It's an A-grade service and it is free for people who are dealing with so much physical, emotional and financial trauma."

He says the fact that family members can also benefit from the charity's support has been  amazing.

"A cancer diagnosis, I believe, is almost as hard for the partner as it is for the patient," he says.

"Sure, I have to go through the hard, physical treatment, but the mental game is just as hard for both parties because my wife has to carry the sadness and the intensity of my diagnosis while trying to keep the family rocking along and doing her job and thinking of the future while I'm laid up in surgery or chemo."

Having received so much help from the charity himself, Henwood hopes the upcoming comedy show will inspire Kiwis to show their support this Daffodil Day and donate to the Cancer Society so they can continue to do "the awesomeness they're doing".

"It's a great way of knowing you're helping everyone who has been affected by cancer."

Article created in partnership with ANZ.