Matt Rife Admits the Obvious — Getting ‘Canceled’ Wasn’t A Punishment At All

Rife gloated about the non-consequences to his recent controversy at a sold-out show at the Hollywood Bowl
Matt Rife Admits the Obvious — Getting ‘Canceled’ Wasn’t A Punishment At All

If Matt Rife can’t make us laugh, he can at least make us tweet.

In November 2023, the TikTok-beloved stand-up set his mostly female internet fanbase ablaze with an “edgy” joke at the top of his new Netflix special, Natural Selection. In the bit, Rife told a story about going out to eat with his friends and noticing that the hostess had a black eye, an unseemly mark that his friend suggested should preclude her from working anywhere besides the back of the house. 

“Yeah, but I feel like if she could cook, she wouldn’t have that black eye,” Rife quipped with all the originality and wit of a middle-schooler cracking up his soccer teammates with the classic, “Dark humor is like food — not everyone gets it.”

Last night, Rife returned to the corporate sponsor of the crime to perform a sold-out show at the Hollywood Bowl as part of the Netflix Is a Joke Festival wherein he commented on the ensuing fallout that made the Natural Selection joke front-page entertainment news. After a slew of bits about transgender people (a preposterously popular target among Rife’s class of comedian), Rife remarked to his audience, “What am I gonna do? Get canceled? Cool, I’ll do another Bowl show, awesome.” 

Next time, he’ll probably even spring for an A-list opener, too — someone tell Jordan Peterson to clear his schedule.

“You know that’s not a real punishment,” Rife riffed on the concept of “cancellation” saying, “Nothing happens. Prison’s a punishment.” Rife then segued into his material on prison life before doing some of his signature crowd work, singling out a man and a woman seated together. After finding out that the man was previously incarcerated on a conviction for assault, Rife asked his partner, “Ma’am, are you okay?” 

Rife then gloated to his audience, “Guys, I’m kidding. Domestic violence is not funny, ever, ever, on any comedy special ever.”

Rife’s recent flaunting of his highly publicized controversy is in line with the tone he took toward those first impressions of Natural Selection when, after many members of his fanbase expressed outrage over the domestic violence joke upon the special’s premiere, Rife posted an “apology” on his Instagram story that read, “If you’ve ever been offended by a joke I’ve told, here’s a link to my official apology.” The link was to an online retailer that sells special needs helmets.

In the immediate aftermath of Natural Selection, Rife seemed to swing hard to the right in order to court the audience of the anti-woke podcast warriors of the comedy world. Many commentators even believed that Rife’s heel-turn in Natural Selection was a planned controversy engineered to gain favor with the Rogan-adjacent comedy crowd after growing dissatisfied with his image as a pretty boy crowd-work comic who only entertains horny older women. That theory was supported by Rife’s bizarre interview with Jordan Peterson, wherein the alt-right thought leader spent 20 minutes methodically explaining why Rife’s act was hilarious without so much as cracking smile.

However, though Rife’s flippant quips sparked an internet firestorm that included angry tweets, TikToks, think pieces and podcast appearances in which comedians and comedy fans alike told him that he’s not funny enough to be that tasteless, six months later, the entire Natural Selection fiasco is now just a strange footnote in Rife’s Wikipedia page. Rife is still selling out stadiums, and his following seems to be even more fervent than before, despite his best attempts to replace them with the “you can’t say anything nowadays” crowd. 

And, even after awkwardly casting off the label of “crowd-work comic” with a literal mic drop at the end of Natural Selection, Rife now has two specials in the works at Netflix, one of which will be the platform’s first crowd-work-only comedy hour.

Rife is right, cancelation isn’t a punishment — for him, it was a promotion.


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