Robert Guillaume has made millions laugh on shows such as Sports Night and

Benson, but there's nothing funny about the debilitating stroke that has affected the actor's speech and motor skills in the past year.

"I got a wakeup call last January and I've been heeding it ever since," Guillaume tells the TV Guide Channel. "I'm not as fast as I used to be, but fortunately I can still talk."

After a brief medical leave, the 72-year-old Emmy Award winner (Soap) is back where he belongs ? playing managing editor/father figure Isaac Jaffee on ABC's Sports Night. Guillaume was pleasantly surprised that a few of his female colleagues saw him in a whole new studly light upon his return to the set. "The girls kept telling me how sexy I was."

Described by co-workers as Sports Night's anchor and voice of reason, the veteran actor, who cut his showbiz teeth in musical theater on Broadway long before Benson became a household name, humbly accepts the well-earned monikers. "Broadway gave me a life," he says. "It's nice to have worked a long time and to have something under your belt."

In spite of the medical curveball pitched to him, Guillaume is grateful to be alive and working. "When I found out I hadn't died... dying was that way," he gestures. "I said, 'We'll go this way!' "