By Medina Mohammed, December 23 2023—
I first saw Matt Rife on TikTok. He was constantly on my for you page, and like many others, I found him to be funny. The majority of what I was seeing was crowd work at stand-up comedy shows, with the occasional actual part of his set, which was a rare sighting. I have always liked comedy, anything that could get a laugh out of me was considered good in my book. Naturally, I followed the account. I liked what I saw, and I wanted to see more.
He mostly fell off of my radar as the trends on TikTok changed, until he popped up again. He had a Netflix special that was not receiving good reviews, especially from women. The clips that I had seen of the special was the most volatile one, which could be highlighted by a wildly inappropriate domestic violence joke. In addition to this, other aspects of Rife’s life that came to the forefront was his disregard for his mostly female fan base that he amassed on TikTok, who saw him the same way I did. In recent comments made by Rife, he appears to want his show to be seen as manly, masculine, and definitely not something that girls would find funny or appealing. Rather he wanted it to be something that their boyfriends could laugh at when dragged to his shows. The final discussion surrounding Rife that I found interesting is his ‘plastic surgeries’, which he vehemently denies.
I decided that I would take the big jump. I popped some popcorn, sat on my couch and watched Natural Selection on Netflix. What I did not expect was for the most controversial parts of the show to be the opener, within the first ten minutes I saw the domestic violence joke which was followed up by making fun of the “crystal girls” which was a set riddled with misogyny. When I finished the comedy special, I felt disappointed. Rife had failed to get one laugh out of me, his jokes felt cheap and strung together very sloppily.
It felt different from other comedians who gained fame on the internet. The comparison that I immediately thought of is someone I have been a fan of for about two years now, Kurtis Conner. Unlike Rife, Conner’s comedy is more authentic, even when he is doing his standup shows, Youtube videos, and podcast. He does not have to try to cater to certain people, as Rife tries to cater to men, Conner is just naturally funny and his humour has appeal. If he jokes about a certain group, he will do so in a sincere way that does not make fun of them for just existing (as Rife tends to do with women) and will find ways to poke fun at himself. In a recent episode of his podcast Very Really Good, Conner mentioned his standup show and fans of his asking why he is not on Netflix like Rife. His response to the question told the truth — Netflix decides which comedians they promote and produce large comedy specials for.
This is what I suppose the natural selection process of comedy and show business is, which is why Rife’s comedy special is perfectly named. As a woman, I did not find his jokes funny. I did, however, initially find him funny when I first came upon him doing crowd work on my for you page. He was not attempting to belittle a certain group just for something that they tend to be interested in, he was not making domestic violence jokes, and I find it strange that no one on the Netflix team saw this before it was produced and thought it would go over well. The true, rare talents are hardly ever acknowledged, unless they’ve gone viral in some way, unless they have a certain look, unless they are making jokes that only men will laugh at. These are all qualities Rife has, which is why fittingly, the natural selection process of public perception will come for him.
This article is a part of our Voices section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.