William Stone @ Pleasance Courtyard

An inventively-framed hour of ASMR comedy from one-liner comic William Stone

Review by Emma Sullivan | 21 Aug 2023
  • William Stone

William Stone is a one-liner comic, a style of comedy that’s been somewhat sidelined in the current Fringe preoccupation with tricksy narrative arcs and trauma. His debut, Lofi Jokes to Study/Relax to uses the model of YouTube relaxation playlists to ingeniously reframe the form. Because, actually, a steady stream of jokes, often sharing a similar rhythm, is relaxing, especially when supplemented by a sense of easy abundance, and Stone’s comfortable, chilled out presence.

It’s high concept, but low-key, and underpinned by some serious thought. Stone has even developed a manifesto for his approach: ‘Quiet comedy’, a form of comedy that aims ‘to make people feel calm, relaxed and even hopeful, a sort of ‘ASMR comedy’. This ethos, admirable at any time, is particularly welcome during the madness of the Fringe, and the show offers frantic brains and frayed nerves some much needed respite.

The show’s success reveals that perhaps shock and surprise in comedy are over-prized. It’s not that Stone is doing without them entirely – his jokes continually set up expectations then subvert them, but the surprise involved is muted; the volume is turned down a little. If we’re all a bit dysregulated – addicted to noise, to risk, to conflict, then his approach pulls things back to a calmer register. ‘My mum laid on a buffet for my birthday’, he says, then, rather ruefully, ‘made it really difficult to eat.’ No offense, no edge – just playful, well-crafted jokes.

William Stone: Lofi Jokes to Study/Relax to, Pleasance Courtyard (Cellar), until 27 Aug, 8pm, £10-11