Stand-up comedian Matt Rife’s sarcastic response to critics calling him out for making a domestic violence joke has been branded “disrespectful” and “offensive”.
Rife, whose viral crowd work interaction videos have earned him a massive social media following, recently scored his first Netflix comedy special after self-releasing his material on YouTube.
However, his streaming debut became embroiled in controversy after the 28-year-old comedian opened the special, titled Natural Selection, with a joke about domestic abuse.
The Ohio-native begins his hour-long set, which was filmed in Washington DC, with an anecdote set at a restaurant in “ratchet” Baltimore where “the hostess who seats you had a black eye”.
“A full black eye. It wasn’t like, ‘What happened?’ It was pretty obvious what happened,” he continued. “But we couldn’t get over, like, this is the face of the company? This is who you have greeting people?
“And my boy, who I was with, was like, ‘Yeah, I feel bad for her, man, I feel like they should put her in the kitchen or something where nobody has to see her face,’” Rife carried on. “And I was like, ‘Yeah, but I feel like if she could cook, she wouldn’t have that black eye.’”
After the special was released on 15 November, several X/Twitter users called Rife out for the “misogynistic” joke about domestic abuse – especially considering his online fan base is predominantly comprised of women.
One user wrote: “The way women catapulted Matt Rife into popularity and the second he gets a comedy special on Netflix he immediately betrays them with a joke about domestic violence crazy innit”.
“The girls and gays were Matt Rife‘s biggest demographic and he used his Netflix special to pander to toxic masculinity,” another person commented. “It feels like a betrayal.”
“Not Matt Rife building his platform on catering to his female audience and then opening his Netflix special with a domestic violence joke,” a third, similar comment read.
Ridiculing the criticism against him, Rife directed people who may have been “offended by a joke I told” to his “official apology” that was labelled “Tap to solve your issue” on his Instagram Stories. Those who clicked the link were led to a website selling helmets for people with special needs.
Many social media users felt Rife’s fake apology was in poor taste, with one person writing: “There’s a difference between an edgy joke and just being disrespectful and distasteful.”
“Oh good. Ableism to chase the misogyny,” another Twitter user wrote.
The Independent has contacted Rife’s representatives for comment.
Ahead of the release of his Netflix special at the centre of a social media storm, Rife told Variety that Natural Selection is “way more for guys”.
“One thing I wanted to tackle in this special was showing people that, despite what you think about me online, I don’t pander my career to women,” he said. I would argue [Natural Selection] is way more for guys,” he told Variety.
When asked whether he’s worried about offending audiences with his darker material, Rife replied: “You don’t know what other people are into and that’s why you have to go out there and do your comedy and just lay it all out there, vulnerably, to find your audience.
“The way I look at it is, as a comedian everything comes down to intent,” he added. “I know for me, everything that leaves my mouth on stage is purely with the intention of making people laugh. It’s never any deeper, never any more or never any less than that.”
This isn’t the first time Rife has courted controversy; earlier this year, his vulgar comments about women’s bodies during an episode of the Stiff Socks podcast were widely panned.
Reflecting on the “insane” backlash to his podcast appearance during a subsequent interview with The New York Times, Rife said: “You’re mad at somebody that’s just trying to make you laugh? That’s such an insane concept to me.”
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