Matt Rife has been making waves in the comedy world, but the 28-year-old stand-up comic and TikTok sensation is facing controversy over his new Netflix special, Natural Selection, that rose to the No. 2 spot on the streaming service’s global top 10 list with 7.4 milliion views in its debut week.
However, the release of Rife’s Natural Selection has been met with criticism. The backlash is largely due to controversial jokes about domestic violence and abuse, as well as Rife’s response to the controversy.
Let’s delve into Rife’s journey to fame and the comments that have landed him in hot water.
Who is Matt Rife?
Rife rose to fame in the realm of social media. With 18.2 million followers on TikTok and 6.4 million followers on Instagram, he transitioned his popularity into self-produced comedy specials. Matt Rife: Only Fans debuted on YouTube in December 2021. Matthew Steven Rife and Walking Red Flag landed on the free video streaming site earlier this year. Rife also appeared on shows such as MTV’s Wild ’n Out and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
For Rife, Netflix success was a major milestone in his stand-up comedy career. He spent over a decade honing his craft before launching his self-produced specials.
“I had to put them out on my own, which was very validating in and of itself. I grew my fan base exponentially,” Rife told Variety. “I was so grateful for how much people liked it. But to have somebody come from another level to be like, ‘Hey, we like what you’re doing. We like what you’ve done for yourself. We want to invite you to work with us.’ It feels warm. It feels inviting,” he continued, noting that “You work your entire career to feel accepted by a network standard.”
The controversial jokes from Natural Selection
Natural Selection opens with Rife recounting a visit to a restaurant in Baltimore, Md., during which he encountered a hostess with a black eye. This led to a joke that sparked outrage, which directly addressed domestic violence.
Despite the backlash, Rife emphasized that he aimed to make the comedy special inclusive. While he acknowledges his strong female following on TikTok, he expressed his desire to create content for a diverse audience.
Rife’s response to the criticism
Although Rife did not directly address the controversy, he posted a statement on Instagram that further fueled the uproar. The statement misled viewers with a link to a medical website selling helmets for people with special needs.
Rife later posted a comedy clip on YouTube, but has refrained from further comments on the jokes in his special or the ensuing backlash. Neither Netflix nor Rife’s representatives have responded to requests for comment regarding the situation.
Matt Rife: Natural Selection is currently streaming on Netflix.