If you’d never heard the name Matt Rife before it suddenly seemed to be everywhere, you wouldn’t be alone. The 28-year-old comedian, who’d mostly been a presence on TikTok until a few days ago, achieved what any comic trying to break into the mainstream presumably dreams about: a Netflix special. Even if reviews were mixed, the special debuted at number two on Netflix’s global top 10 shows—but many have already turned on him.
To understand why, you only need to watch the first 2 minutes and 47 seconds of that special, titled Natural Selection, which came out midway through last week. “Maryland as a state cannot pick a tone,” Rife opens to the assembled D.C. crowd. “It’s so beautiful and so ratchet for no reason.” He goes on to tell a story about going to eat at a Baltimore restaurant and being seated by a hostess with a black eye. As the joke goes, his friend expressed sympathy for the hostess before suggesting that she be put in the kitchen “where nobody has to see her face,” to which Rife responds, “Yeah, but I feel like if she could cook, she wouldn’t have that black eye.”
“I figure if we start the show with domestic violence, the rest of the show should be pretty smooth sailing after that,” he continues, giggling to himself. That’s all before the four-minute mark.
Wherever you fall on a joke like that—or however “fun” you are, to use Rife’s own metric—enough people were up in arms about the special that Rife subsequently took to social media to apologize. Or, so it seemed at first. Last night, Rife posted a screenshot from the special to his Instagram story with the caption, “If you’ve ever been offended by a joke I’ve told- here’s a link to my official apology” with a link button that read, “Tap to solve your issue.” Clicking the link doesn’t take users to any sort of real apology, but to a page selling “special needs helmets.” So it seems Rife, who also has a video titled “Awesome Autism” pinned to his page, is not going to back down any time soon. (Rife does not identify as being on the spectrum.)
Rife is far from the first comedian to rely on gross, regressive humor to get ahead, and he won’t be the last. (Other names that immediately come to mind are Dave Chappelle and Ricky Gervais, both of whom caught heat for their transphobic Netflix specials in recent years.) What remains to be seen is how long this guy can actually stick around, and how long Netflix continues to give him a platform to tell those derogatory jokes.