Matt Rife Dismisses Controversy Over Joke at Netflix Comedy Show

Comedian Matt Rife addresses past controversies in latest show

by Zain ul Abedin
Matt Rife Dismisses Controversy Over Joke at Netflix Comedy Show
© Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Comedian Matt Rife recently revisited the contentious period following a joke he made last year about domestic violence. The backlash was significant, stemming from his 2023 Netflix special, "Natural Selection," where he narrated an incident about a waitress with a black eye, which drew immediate criticism for its insensitive nature.

At his latest appearance during the "Netflix Is a Joke Fest" at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, Rife, 28, addressed the earlier controversy while also poking fun at the concept of being canceled. His approach to humor, often laced with dark material, was evident as he juggled topics from transgender issues to the repercussions - or the lack thereof - of being canceled in today's cultural climate.

"You know that's not a real punishment… nothing happens. Prison’s a punishment," Rife quipped, further discussing societal reactions to controversial humor. His commentary extended to a brief interaction with an audience member, underscoring his view that domestic violence should never be a comedic subject.

This marked a rare moment of seriousness in his otherwise provocative set.

Rife's Comedy Intent

The Ohio native's performance also touched on past controversies, including a joke about special needs that he had made, which had drawn ire.

He humorously noted, "I got in so much trouble for making a joke about special needs helmets, and then I come to LA and perform in the biggest helmet," referring to the dome-like structure of the venue. In an interview with Variety prior to the release of his special, Rife shared that "Natural Selection" was geared more towards a male audience and emphasized that his primary goal on stage was to entertain and provoke laughter, not controversy.

"The way I look at it is, as a comedian everything comes down to intent," he explained, asserting that his acts are designed purely to amuse. Rife’s previous comments on a podcast, where he made controversial remarks about women's bodies, also resurfaced, leading to a broader reflection on the nature of comedy and public sensitivity.

Speaking to The New York Times, he expressed bafflement at the outrage his humor incited, positioning himself as someone who aims solely to entertain, a stance he reiterates amid ongoing debates over the boundaries of comedy.