Comedian Matt Rife responds to Netflix special backlash with mock apology

FILE - Comedian Matt Rife has been the subject of intense criticism after he opened his Netflix comedy special 'Natural Selection' with a joke about domestic violence. Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Comedian Matt Rife has issued what appeared to be a mock apology to angry viewers of his heavily criticized Netflix special, directing them to a website selling special needs helmets.

The 28-year-old American comic had been swiftly gaining popularity online ahead of the Nov. 15 release of his comedy special Natural Selection. After it dropped on the streaming service, some viewers of Rife’s Netflix special expressed outrage that the comedian opened the show with a joke about domestic violence.

In front of a live audience, Rife recounted a trip to a “ratchet” (slang meaning classless or dysfunctional) Baltimore restaurant where he and a friend were greeted by a hostess with a black eye.

Rife said he and his pal were surprised by the woman’s appearance, but not for speculative reasons on how she obtained the injury.

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“It was pretty obvious what happened,” Rife said in his special. “We’re like, ‘This is the face of the company? This is who you have greeting people?'”

Though Rife said his friend “felt bad” for the woman, they both suggested she ought to be working in the kitchen “where no one has to see her face,” rather than as a front-of-house staff member.

“I feel like if she could cook, she wouldn’t have that black eye,” Rife joked, earning laughter from the crowd.

Rife then told the audience he was “just testing the waters” to see if the crowd was going to be “fun or not.”

Many fans of Rife have lambasted the special since its release and have called on the comedian to apologize for the joke about domestic violence.

On Monday, Rife addressed his critics in an Instagram story. Alongside a photo of himself in Natural Selection, Rife wrote, “If you’ve ever been offended by a joke I’ve told- here’s a link to my official apology.”

The link, labelled “Tap to solve your issue,” directed his followers to a health website selling special needs helmets — seemingly a callback to a raunchy Natural Selection joke about a former classmate with special needs.

Rife’s mocking apology only added fuel to the flames and further outraged his critics.

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Matt Rife’s Instagram story. The link directed viewers to a website selling special needs helmets. Instagram @mattrife

Rife, who has been working in the comedy scene for over a decade, only recently reached viral fame — and became especially popular among gen-Z women on the social media app TikTok. He was quickly branded by some as the ‘hot comedian,’ given his conventional attractiveness.

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Rife, however, seemed to take some issue with the labelling, and the hordes of young women who were often recorded heckling at his shows.

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Rife has talked about how his comedy career was relatively unsuccessful before he reached what he’s called a “second puberty” in recent years, and subsequently gained a fanbase consisting of many women.

Still, he has been adamant that his comedy is not targeted specifically to women. In an interview with Variety, prior to the release of Natural Selection, Rife said the audiences of his standup shows are usually a “50/50” split of men and women.

“That’s one thing that I wanted to tackle in this special was showing people that, like, despite what you think about me online, I don’t pander my career to women,” Rife said. “I would argue this special is way more for guys.”

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Rife also told the outlet that he does not “adhere to this whole sensitivity rumor in the comedy world that you can’t say anything anymore.”

“You can say whatever you want. Now, you have to prepare for repercussions. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to how do you sleep at night,” he said.

Rife said that for a comedian, everything must be about “intent.”

“Everything that leaves my mouth on stage is purely with the intention of making people laugh,” he said. “It’s never any deeper, never any more or never any less than that.”

Rife’s critics don’t seem to agree — and have enjoyed poking fun at the comedian online since the release of Natural Selection. 

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Matt Rife: Natural Selection is currently streaming on Netflix.

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