Matt Rife’s Stand-Up Star Turn Has Been Upended By Massive Backlash
This week should have been a victory lap for Matt Rife. His new special, Natural Selection, has been sitting at #1 or #2 in the Netflix Top Ten since it dropped, which is one helluva achievement for a young comic. Instead, Rife has been dodging bullets all week, first for the insensitive jokes in his special and then for his ill-advised Instagram story inviting his critics to purchase special-needs helmets. You can poke the masses, Matt, but guess what happens next?
The angry backlash started almost immediately after the special debuted, with a viewer accusing Rife of ripping off a bit from comedian Ralphie May. Even more were dismayed by the domestic violence joke with which Rife chose to open his special.
”I figure if we start the show with domestic violence, the rest of the show should be smooth sailing,” reasoned Rife. But the sailing hasn’t been exactly smooth.
You know what happened next — Rife told everyone who expected an apology to buy a helmet. But just as Rife promises that he hits back when provoked online, the Internet at large counterpunches as well. Poke the online horde in the collective eye and it will do two things: Sharpen its knives and go looking for receipts.
Unfortunately for Rife, receipts aren’t hard to find. People began circulating this beauty from 2016, when Rife challenged another comedian to a fight after feeling disrespected. The ugly tweets were from a long time ago, to be fair, but yikes. Not a good look for a comic trying to break into the mainstream.
This morning, Rife haters were sharing this 2015 clip from Wild ‘N Out featuring the comic trying to make 18-year-old Disney Channel star Zendaya do a spit-take.
Rife’s jokes are plenty lame — “Look, you’re mixed, I want to be Black, let’s make a lifestyle movie!” — but dopey come-ons aren’t what’s got everyone all hot and bothered. That would be when Rife grabs Zendaya’s face in his mitts while shouting “Spit that water out so I can get your number, please!”
Other members of the Wild N’ Out crew leaped to her defense. “Keep your hands off her, man!” yelled one cast member. “She’s too young,” shouted another. For the Internet at large, the clip was either a reminder of Rife’s past mistakes or a fresh reason to bring the hate.
Do any of these clips and Tweets get circulated if Rife doesn’t bring it on himself with his Instagram provocations? I assume his publicist team is pulling out its collective hair, trying to figure out how to wrestle Rife’s social media keys from his well-muscled hands. Netflix has to wonder what it got itself into. Then again, given the performance of Natural Selection so far, maybe everyone is thrilled. A Netflix hate-watch still counts as a watch.