Competitive Complimenting: Off JFL Presents Boast Rattle

As someone who loves bitingly brutal comedy, I was not sure what to expect when I attended Off JFL’s Boast Rattle. Unlike its more well-known counterpart – the roast battle – in which comedians take turns insulting each other, a boast rattle is in essence a compliment contest. It’s a new concept, and it’s one that’s sure to take off if last night’s performance is any indication.

I thought only insults could be funny…

…That is until I saw what last night’s team of talented comedians could do with compliments.

I’ve covered three shows so far, and this one had me laughing the hardest.

Run by American comedian Kyle Ayers, it consists of himself as host, a sound effects guy – comedian Dave Thomason, comedian Chris Laker as judge, and three pairs of talented comedians trying to outdo each other by complimenting their opponent.

At the end of each round, Ayers and Laker give their input, after which the audience votes as who moves on to the finals.

The show was broken into two rounds, one initial boast rattle, followed by a final in which an audience volunteer was chosen, asked a few questions, and the comedians used their answers to come up with the best compliment for them.

Kyle Ayers made an excellent host.

His standup style is a charming mix of awkward self-deprecation and biting commentary.

In his opening bit, he went over the rules of the competition, explaining that the audience volunteer for the final had to be someone having a rough time. He explained that in the case where two people offered to go up on stage, the more deserving would be complimented by the finalists, using as an example a show where it was between a guy who claimed he was tired and a woman who works in a pediatric burn ward. He rightfully pointed out that if it’s general fatigue versus burned babies, it was kind of a no brainer.

Ayers apparently begged our Prime Minister to attend the boast rattle, and after having fellow comedian read Justin Trudeau’s official not-so-polite reply in French, he demonstrated a boast rattle by complimenting a printed photo of the man.

His best compliment?

“He’s so wonderful I can’t wait to see what unqualified sociopath Canada elects as backlash.”

This was clearly a jab at his fellow Americans who elected an Orange Racist after the enlightened President Obama. He compared the current president to Game of Thrones’ Lannisters because: “What’s up with his hair and I think he f*cks his family.” It was one of the best jokes of the night.

After a couple of technical difficulties handled with grace, the battle began.

First up was Sasheer Zamata, who has her own OFF JFL show, versus Martin Urbano, a comedian featured in this year’s New Faces of Comedy.

The pair were interesting to watch as their styles are so different.

Sasheer Zamata’s compliment style was in the form of remarks one thought would end up being filthy, but turned out sweet and clean:

“Martin’s from Texas. Everything’s bigger in Texas and when they say it, I think they mean… (long pause for everyone to anticipate a penis joke)… Martin’s heart,”

Martin Urbano’s technique is a little edgier, darker, and more self-deprecating. He managed to make a comparison to an arsonist complimentary – “because her smile lights up a room” and turned a stalking joke into praise. His style reminds me of a cross between Demetri Martin and Emo Phillips, that unassuming guy who makes you laugh before you know it but whose jokes are so dark they’re almost offensive, but not quite.

The contrast between them was so stark and their jokes so good they were both moved to the final.

Next up was Danny Jolles vs Ramy Youssef.

These two were especially funny to watch in part because they were so evenly matched. They said from the get-go that they’ve been friends for years, and the chemistry between them was clear, as was the almost sibling-like rivalry. What was supposed to be a compliments contest ended up being a backhanded compliments contest.

Youssef compared Jolles to a Pixar character, which would have been a nice way of saying he’s cute if he hadn’t said the one he had in mind was the protagonist in the film Up. For anyone unfamiliar with the film, said hero is a wrinkled, curmudgeonly old man.

Jolles in turn ribbed on Youssef’s Muslim heritage, calling him a “suicide charmer”. Though their closing compliments were both cringe-worthy, Danny Jolles took the round for somehow making a comparison to Bin Laden complimentary.

Last was Emily Heller versus Ron Funches.

Funches was good, with an excellent remark about how Heller bought him his first dashiki and it didn’t feel racist at all…

…But Emily Heller was breathtaking.

She did not make a single bad joke the whole night, and though diminutive in stature and tone, her edgy jokes spoke volumes.

In the final round, which she got to by unanimous audience and judge decision she successfully rattled off a made up list of pornographic titles based on Billy Crystal movies after the audience volunteer – comedian Dulce Sloan – admitted she liked him.

Heller won Boast Rattle and it was well-deserved.

A new concept, Boast Rattle is a treat if you can stay up late enough to catch it.

Check it out.

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