Host with the boast! Comedian leads a compliment contest

Please clap: Comedian Kyle Ayers will host a “Boast Rattle” compliment competition at Union Hall on May 20.
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Nice guys finish first!

A comedy competition this weekend will reward the silver-tongued speakers with the nicest things to say. The “Boast Rattle,” in the basement of Union Hall on May 20, is an upside-down version of the traditional “roast battle,” with comedians seeking to out-do each other with elaborate compliments instead of insults. The event’s creator started the bit as one-time pun, but it proved so popular that he spun it off into its own show.

“It would always do so well, and we figured we might as well go with what people like,” said comedian Kyle Ayers. “I like treating absurd ideas with as much seriousness as possible.”

During the show, six comedians will face off in three one-on-one friendliness feuds. A judge will critique their compliments, but audience applause will determine a winner.

“I usually have a guest judge to tell them what compliments went well — just fun, ridiculous feedback, but the crowd decides,” said Ayers.

The Bushwick comedian chose the match-ups for the May 20 nice-off, trying to find jokesters who could use inside knowledge to take down their opponents.

“It tends to make it more fun if they know each other,” he said. “They can get more personal, and that’s always a good time.”

But it’s not just about saying nice things — it has to be funny as well, said Ayers.

“People generally like it if you can have something clever that works as a joke as well, like ‘Martha is part of the terrorist organization NISIS,’ ” he said. “You will surprised how hard it is to write a funny compliment. People tend to come in and think it’s going to be a pleasant, nice night, and they’re impressed by how funny it is.”

In the competition’s second half, the three final flatterers will interview a volunteer from the audience, then compete to extoll that person’s virtue. This can be more difficult than boasting a friend, but one competing comedian said that he has a technique.

“You need to find something that’s visual, or that you an explain in a tight set-up, and then have a punch line off of that,” said Williamsburg comedian Josh Gondelman. “For a roast on television — that’s a famous person, there’s a lot that people already know. For this, you have to either work from what people can tell and see, or do a really tight job of setting it up. Tight structure is really valuable.”

But the boast rattle format can also free up one’s creativity, said Gondelman.

“Nothing’s off limits — there’s not a lot of punches you have to pull, because you’re saying nice things,” he said.

Boast Rattle at Union Hall [702 Union St. between Fifth and Sixth avenues in Park Slope, (718) 638–4400,]. May 20 at 8 pm. $12 ($10 in advance).

Reach arts editor Bill Roundy at or by calling (718) 260–4507.
Updated 5:59 pm, July 9, 2018
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