Comedian Matt Rife responds to Netflix special backlash with link to ‘special needs helmets’

Comedian Matt Rife was criticized for his new Netflix stand-up comedy special, “Natural Selection,” after clips of him joking about domestic violence went viral Monday. 

Rife, who has been a comedian for over a decade and was featured on MTV’s “Wild ’n Out,” posted a response to his critics broadly in his Instagram story on Monday afternoon.

“If you’ve ever been offended by a joke I’ve told — here’s a link to my official apology,” he wrote. The link in his Instagram story leads to a medical website that sells helmets for people with special needs. 

Representatives for Rife did not respond to multiple requests for comment. 

“Natural Selection,” which premiered Wednesday on Netflix, touches on topics like social media trolls, spirituality and having kids. He opened the special with a joke about a restaurant server who took his order in Baltimore. He described how she had a black eye.

“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, ya know?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, but I feel like if she could cook, she wouldn’t have that black eye,’” Rife said. 

He then said he was “testing the waters, seeing if y’all are gonna be fun or not.”

“I figure we start the show with domestic violence, the rest of the show should be pretty smooth sailing after that,” he said.

The clip of Rife’s opening joke got millions of views on TikTok and thousands on X. People condemned him for making light of abuse.

“I’m genuinely trying to figure out how this can be spun as funny? Like he’s victim blaming?” a commenter on TikTok wrote. 

“Would love to see him explain what makes the joke funny and see if he can say anything other than that it’s shocking,” another said.

He also was criticized for a joke he made later in the special about the penis of an old classmate who had special needs.

Rife started gaining popularity on TikTok with his crowd work, or engagement with his audience, in July 2022. Ticketmaster crashed this year when tickets to his “ProbleMATTic” world tour went on sale. 

He has amassed a platform of 18.2 million TikTok followers, many of whom are women. Critics said they felt he was purposefully alienating his female fans by making them the butt of many jokes. 

“A comedian ruining his relationship with a large portion of his fanbase because he wanted to be like all of the other boring-a– Netflix Special ‘You Cant Tell Jokes Anymore’ crowd is actually just depressing,” YouTuber Hank Green posted on X.

Comedian Pat Loller said on TikTok: “He doesn’t like his audience, and he’s concerned they’re only there to look at him. So he opened his show with a domestic violence joke just to let those ladies know: Stop giving him money.”

Rife told Variety on Nov. 14 that he was “ridiculed” for having a predominantly female fan base. He clarified that the crowds at his shows are “50/50” and insisted that he does not “pander my career to women.”

“I would argue this special is way more for guys,” he told the publication.

Daysia Tolentino

Daysia Tolentino is a culture and trends reporter for NBC News.

Kalhan Rosenblatt

contributed

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