6th Dimension Comedy embraces insanity at Rochester Fringe 

click to enlarge Andrew Steiner and Matthew Silver film an episode of "Special Quest" in New Brunswick, Canada. - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • Andrew Steiner and Matthew Silver film an episode of "Special Quest" in New Brunswick, Canada.
Andrew Steiner and Matthew Silver are not your typical stand-up comedians. As two-thirds of the group 6th Dimension Comedy, these New York City-based clowns—their words—improvise their way through absurdist soliloquies and nonsensical thought processes, and against all odds turn it into entertainment. They’ll be joined by fellow comedian Steve Girard for a trio of performances at Rochester Fringe Festival.

Steiner says he named the troupe 6th Dimension Comedy to let people know what they're about to experience.

“My goal in a performance is to make the audience feel like they’re tripping balls,” Steiner said. “It’s like taking psychedelics, if the audience is like, ‘Oh, I’m into this, I want to go with this, I want to feel that energy and feel like I’m in a dream or whatever,’ then to me that’s the most fun.”

In July, Steiner and Silver began their weekly on-the-street podcast, "Special Quest," with the kind of energy typically reserved for soapbox preachers, cult members, and people who wear tinfoil hats.

"There are moments when Matthew’s like my guru, and there are moments when he’s like my annoying brother,” said Steiner via Zoom,  as the pair stood underneath the Hell Gate Bridge in New York City wearing face paint for a podcast episode they had just recorded.

The trailer for “Special Quest” features them dancing with one another and confronting an unsuspecting stranger on a New York City sidewalk with the question, “Can we ask you how you’re thinking?”

But there is clearly a method to their madness. The viral video “Words of Wisdom from an Unexpected Citizen" features Silver performing at his usual hangout, Union Square. There he presents his performance art (frequently wearing only underwear or a bathing suit), simultaneously delighting and discomforting passersby with happy rants about the importance of love and living in the moment.

“I’m a magic maker,” Silver said. “I go deep into my heart and I suck out the blood. I want to show all this blood and guts to everybody, ‘cause I want to have something to share. It’s not the blood, it’s a metaphor. It’s a vibrational frequency, man.”
click to enlarge Andrew Steiner. - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • Andrew Steiner.
By comparison, Steiner is a more conventional comedian whose act includes him proposing to his girlfriend on the subway and ruminating on his dream of becoming a Jewish wrestler called “The Circumciser.” At last year’s Rochester Fringe Festival, Steiner performed “How to Meditate: a Burlesque Show.” Though his material this time around will be different, his motivation for performing comedy remains the same.

click to enlarge Matthew Silver. - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • Matthew Silver.
“It’s literally just what I’ve been doing and getting in trouble for my entire adolescence,” Steiner said. “So it’s nice to have found a way to potentially make a living off of it and a community that accepts that and actually praises that.”

Silver, making his Rochester Fringe debut, is the kind of troublemaker who seems incapable of having a conversation without performing. He can’t imagine being something other than a comedian.

“I don’t want to have another choice,” he said, his voice rising with intensity. “I choose this choice. I choose this choice with all my spirit! I commit to the insanity and the sanity. The good times and the bad times. All we have is the quest!”

Andrew Steiner, Matthew Silver, and Steve Girard perform as 6th Dimension Comedy at School of the Arts’ Club SOTA on September 14, 15, and 17. Tickets are $15. For more info, go to rochesterfringe.com.

Daniel J. Kushner is an arts writer at CITY. He can be reached at [email protected].
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