finding her voice

Kathy Griffin makes emotional stage return after surgery paralyzed a vocal chord

Kathy Griffin
Kathy Griffin (Photo: Shutterstock)

Comedian Kathy Griffin appeared onstage at an LGBTQ event on Saturday night. It was the first time she performed in front of a live audience since cancer surgery left one of her vocal cords paralyzed. She has been undergoing intense therapy since then to try and get her voice back to what it was.

On Sunday, she posted a message on her Instagram saying, “I, I, I…did some stand up last night. First time since cancer surgery. It was heaven.”

She followed this up with a second posting, including a clip of her on stage and a longer explanation of why it meant so much to her.

“OK, I’m very self-conscious about this but I wanted to let you guys know exactly where my voice is in context of when I can go back to working,” she said.

“I had the privilege of doing a stand up set at an LGBT charity ball Saturday night. I was asked to roast the honoree and she was a fantastic laugher and let me really have at her. 🙂

“When I first walked out on stage, which is not in this clip, and I started speaking in my whisper voice some folks in the audience laughed because they didn’t know about my situation. Then I explained it and they were kind of stunned for about two minutes.

“Then the most amazing thing happened. The audience, and granted this was a very forgiving and loving audience, actually adjusted to me! They became so quiet that they actually heard what I was saying through my poor little paralyzed left vocal chord after my cancer surgery. I didn’t talk about that stuff I was having too much fun doing ‘the assignment’.

“So you see where I am. I would love to go back on tour as soon as possible, but I just don’t know how strong my voice will ever be. Wish me luck! I’m doing all kinds of pathology lessons and all that other boring stuff so I can go back to projecting. Well, not projecting in the way that Republicans think all Democrats are pedophiles when actually they’re the ones who are constantly getting arrested for exposing themselves to kids and stuff, but projecting more in a theatrical sense. :)”


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Saturday evening’s event was a legacy celebration by the Los Angeles LGBT Center to mark the forthcoming retirement of its longtime CEO, Lorri L. Jean, and its chief-of-staff, Darrel Cummings.

Kathy Griffin was diagnosed with stage 1 lung cancer last August. She subsequently underwent surgery to remove half of her left lung. The operation left her with a high-pitched voice, which she described as “Minnie Mouse meets Marilyn Monroe” during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! last December. She also told the late-night chat show host she was now cancer-free.

In February, Griffin revealed that the vocal cord damage, which she hoped was temporary, might be permanent. In an Instagram posting, she said, “OK so I have to go to see the ear nose and throat doctor and get scoped again where they put a big goddamn tube down my throat and I gag and they look at my vocal cords.”

“I’m sick to death of not having my voice and terrified it will never get better because they said it would be better by now and it isn’t.”

It’s great to see Griffin back on stage, doing what she does best. Here’s hoping she’s back out on tour again very soon.

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