If a brain tumor has a bright side, it seems Kyle Kratzke found it.
“He always looked at it as ‘Lucky me, look at what happened to me and how I’m so lucky to get the chance to do all these things and make my life better,’ ” said his mother, Lisa Kratzke.
Kratzke was diagnosed when he was 5 and has undergone eight surgeries. His tumor causes cognitive disabilities, including a slower processing of information and reduced memory. But he has used his tumor as fodder for jokes in the more than 20 stand-up comedy acts he has performed at clubs throughout New York City and Long Island over the past three years, some at fundraisers for nonprofits, others for pay.
“The brain tumor is why I got started in comedy,” Kratzke, 18, said.
He formed the nonprofit BrainTumorsareFunny last year to bring comedy and motivational speakers to children with serious medical conditions and to raise money for groups that serve them. A fundraiser June 30 will raise money for Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.
Kratzke, of Port Jefferson Station, said he hopes to make a career out of motivational speaking. He wants to use his positive attitude and humor to encourage others facing obstacles.
“When people hear my story and what happened to me, and [see how far] I’ve come, they’re inspired,” he said.
His psychologist at Comsewogue High School, Krista Wolf, said Kratzke has academic and social skills well beyond what’s expected for a student with his challenges.
Robert Kratzke said telling jokes helped his son “get through things with his peers, because he was behind them emotionally and socially. When you’re on stage and you’re performing, you’re in control. The conversation is on his terms.”
HIGHER ED: Kratzke will attend Suffolk County Community College, where he may major in theater.
FRESHMAN FAST-FORWARD: “I’m hoping the experience of college will help me learn a little more how to put together” and run his nonprofit.
WHAT MAKES YOU EXTRAORDINARY?
“The attitude I [maintained] with dealing with the brain tumor. I’ve tried to show people you can find humor in anything.”