Matt Rife Says Crowd Work Is Why ‘the Comedy Community Does Not Like Me at All’

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Matt Rife Says Crowd Work Is Why ‘the Comedy Community Does Not Like Me at All’

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In 2024, comedian crowd work on social media is a double-edged sword. Sure, those videos can cut through the clutter and get a comedian noticed. But audience interaction clips also can invite obnoxious fans to try to become part of the show. Matt Rife built an audience posting videos like the one below, but in some ways, his TikTok drops have hurt his reputation as much as helped him. Can Rife write actual jokes or is he only capable of riffing on unsuspecting audience members?

@matt_rife

Thanks to his notoriety as a crowd-work comic, “the comedy community does not like me at all,” Rife told The Los Angeles Times. “It’s ego-driven and competitive. Everyone’s jealous of everybody, and I’ve been there.”

But that hasn’t stopped Rife from being a little defensive about his reputation. He ended his Netflix special Natural Selection by asking the crowd, “What do I know? I only do crowd work, right?” before dropping his microphone in triumph. Rife can write material after all! (The Times notes that despite this end-of-show brag, Rife spent 5 to 7 minutes of his hourlong special goofing on audience members.)

Rife acknowledges that his social media clips prime potential fans for interactions that aren’t always that funny. “I think people do come with a certain expectation,” he says. “They see something online and aspire for it to be them in that certain situation, which I feel bad for because it might not happen.” That’s one problem with crowd work vs. jokes — if the audience member is a dud (or if the comic can’t come up with a witty comeback on the fly), the show can stop dead. That’s why a common phrase in Rife shows, according to The Los Angeles Times, is “Not funny, moving on.” Those cringe moments don’t get turned into TikToks.

Comic Trevor Wallace believes it’s better for stand-ups to share written material on their social feeds. “I do think any content that’s stand-up-related is better (for sales),” he says. “(I get) a lot of like, ‘I saw a stand-up clip and didn’t know you did that … now I’m here.’”

But Rife argues that there’s a solid business reason for sharing crowd-work vids. It's not that crowd work is the only thing he's capable of doing well. “It's like, ‘No, I don’t want you to pay to come see me in person to see the exact same jokes you just saw for free.’”

So Rife isn’t giving up on crowd work, even though it’s created a community of customers who want to be picked on, showing up with weird signs or crazy stories in the hopes of becoming part of the show. “I’ve kind of created this monster, where they get rewarded for throwing a wrench at you,” he says. “If (I react), well, they go, ‘I did a good thing,’ and if I don’t, people go, ‘He can’t think on his feet.’ I’m kind of just stuck in this now.”

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