Matt Rife’s Blinding Handsomeness Didn’t Stop Me From Hating His New Special

Sculpted cheekbones have never been so defensive
Matt Rife’s Blinding Handsomeness Didn’t Stop Me From Hating His New Special

Matt Rife assures us it’s not easy being a beautiful comic. “People don’t want to laugh at physically attractive people,” he said in a Mens Health-sponsored TikTok earlier this year. “You don’t want to walk on stage, and people are looking at your arms rather than listening to your jokes. I think it just makes me work that much harder.” 

Fair enough. I won’t mention Rife’s famous cheekbones in this review of his new Netflix special, Natural Selection. Rife, primarily known for his popular crowd-work bits on social media, gave me plenty of other things to talk about. 

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The first thing I learned? There are lots of women that Rife doesn’t care for. He’s got it in for waitresses with black eyes (why can’t they stay hidden in the kitchen?), hippie chicks, his religious ex, flight attendants who insist on enforcing the rules and the “heavier set.” The only women he claims to like are the grandmas he wants to bang. Why be someone’s first when you can be their last? Now that’s a flex. 

There’s a puzzling, extended bit about all the women he knows who are into crystals and astrology, a phenomenon he says is particular to younger women (Rife is 28). Really? He knows a lot of them? The jokes about believing in star signs are so dated that George Carlin could have told them in 1978. (He wouldn’t have been caught dead doing so, but the point remains.) Rife and Bob Hope would have had something in common, shaking their fists at them long-haired hippies and telling them to “wear some deodorant!” 

The middle third of Natural Selection is devoted to sex, masturbation and porn. He’s afraid of gay ghosts because they might eat his dick. Or is he? Rife spends a good five minutes imagining the different ghouls and monsters who might swallow his semen. Hilarious.

But the most off-putting segment of the special is its last bit, a long diatribe about a flight attendant who insisted Rife stow his bag under the seat. It’s a long story that starts out defensive and then gets… more defensive. The initial story, like all comedian stories about airline travel, is pedestrian. Yep, sometimes we get seated next to loud kids and overweight travelers. Yep, some of the airlines’ rules seem pointless. We’ve heard it before but okay, let’s see where this goes.

Rife hates social media, he tells the audience, despite his acknowledgment that his social videos are why the theater is full of fans. (He also later says, “I post every day.”) But despite his distaste for Twitter and the like, he used the plane’s Wi-Fi to gripe about the airline rules. He couldn’t believe what happened next. An angry online mob gathered to tell him to suck it up and follow the rules like the rest of us do. The nerve! A bunch of nobodies all trying to get their licks in, he says. And if you think a public figure like Rife should simply take the high road and ignore online trolls? “Fuckin’ kill yourself, man.”

Rife can’t help but fight back, he tells us. People who criticize him on the internet are just miserable human beings leading miserable lives, he claims, not considering the possibility that perhaps his jokes/posts might be misguided or downright terrible.

The defensiveness ramps up as he builds to the end of the special. He has to fight back. The trolls started it! They’re disrespectful! They’re mean!  “I was so sick of being ganged up on 1 versus 700!” Rife was especially triggered by one woman who tweeted that he was being an “insubordinate, crybaby little bitch” about the airline rules. 

Rife, who insists that online comments don’t bother him, spends the next few minutes going after the “heavier-set woman” who called him a crybaby, landing one fat-shame joke after another. Hey, he reminds us, she started it!  When the woman is offended, Rife complains that everyone wants to be a victim these days. You know, like the guy who just cried that it was so unfair when everyone ganged up on him.

Just when you think Rife couldn’t get any more defensive? He finishes the special with a triumphant “What do I know? I only do crowd work, right?” He drops the microphone — like actually drops it — owning everyone who ever doubted he could come up with a solid hour of actual material. 

I’ll give Rife this much — I never once thought about his sculpted arms. 

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