IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Jeannie and Jim Gaffigan used humor to cope with her brain tumor

One of the basic bonds that connects Jim and Jeannie Gaffigan is humor, so it makes sense that when life took a scary turn, they turned to what they know best.
/ Source: TODAY

One of the basic bonds that connects Jim Gaffigan and his wife, Jeannie, is humor. He's a stand-up comedian and comic actor, and she's his on and off-screen partner and comedy co-writer.

So it makes sense that when life took a scary turn for them last year, they turned to what they know best — laughter.

Jeannie was diagnosed with a brain tumor in April 2017, which, despite being benign, was still life-threatening due to its size and location. But when the couple sat down with Megyn Kelly Monday, she admitted that her first thought after learning about her condition was, "I don't really have time to have a massive brain tumor right now."

Still, there was always time for finding the funny moments amid their real life drama.

"Jeannie was so amazing through this," Jim recalled. "Being writing partners, she would come out of a two-hour MRI and the first thing she would say is, 'Write down these ideas I have about MRI jokes!'"

As a mom to five kids between the ages of 5 and 14, the jokes came easily to her since, as she put it, "I'm never alone for that long."

But there was a point when Jim had to look beyond the humor and seriously consider that he might face a future without having his wife of 15 years by his side.

"Oh, yeah, there was definitely a realistic (fear of losing her)," he said. "I mean, I joke around about giving the kids up for adoption, but it was very much, like, 'OK, this is where my career ends. I've had a great career but, obviously, if I'm going to be this single father of five children, I'm going to be there."

Thankfully, it didn't come to that. Jeannie underwent a successful surgery to remove the entire tumor and now continues physical therapy as she's on the road to recovery.

She and Jim have used the experience as fodder for his new stand-up special, "Noble Ape," wherein they hope others will find the humor in what they went through — and their own difficult situations.

"I've been doing stand-up so long that some of it is you just ... find what's funny on the topic and hope that it's universal," Jim explained. "What I've found is that everyone has dealt with some family medical emergency. Maybe not a brain tumor, but we've all been in that dark, awkward position in a hospital, so it really is a universal thing."

"Nobel Ape" is currently playing in select theaters and available on demand.