Matt Rife nods to domestic violence joke controversy and says he can’t be cancelled in new set

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Published May 13, 2024 at 12:58 PM

Reading time: 2 minutes

While comedians wield the power to provoke thought, stimulate conversation, and even promote social change through their craft, they also bear the responsibility of ensuring that their humour does not come at the expense of marginalised or vulnerable groups. Unfortunately, this responsibility is not always upheld, as evidenced by the recent controversy surrounding comedian Matt Rife and his problematic remarks regarding domestic violence.

And from the look of it, Rife hasn’t learned much from his previous mistakes… During his recent Hollywood Bowl show, the 28-year-old quipped about his infamous domestic violence joke, and it wasn’t pretty.

In case you missed out on the previous wave of criticism that Rife received back in November 2023, here’s a brief recap of what went down. Before finding success on TikTok in 2022, Rife struggled for years to break into the comedy scene. Despite gaining a predominantly female following on the platform, he made it clear that his 2023 stand-up special Natural Selection was tailored for a male audience.

In interviews, Rife addressed misconceptions about his fanbase, asserting that while he initially gained popularity among women on TikTok, his comedy isn’t aimed solely at them. He emphasised his desire to challenge this perception and showcase his material’s appeal to men, suggesting that his latest special was crafted with this demographic in mind.

In his misguided attempt to appeal to a male demographic, Rife cracked jokes about a hostess with a black eye, callously dismissing the severity of her situation. The audience’s shocked reaction was met with further insensitivity as Rife quipped about “testing the waters” with domestic violence humour.

Ah, the classic playbook: make tasteless jokes, issue a half-hearted apology, and then double down on the insensitivity. Bravo, Rife, for turning a serious issue into a comedy of errors. Sharing a link to special needs helmets as an apology? Truly a masterclass in missing the mark. And let’s not forget the audacity to joke about being “cancelled” while brushing off the real harm caused. Ah yes, because trivialising domestic violence is the epitome of comedy gold. Keep digging that hole, Rife, you might just hit rock bottom eventually.

“A full black eye. It wasn’t like, ‘What happened?’ It was pretty obvious what happened,” he continued during his set. “We couldn’t get over, like, this is the face of the company? This is who you have greeting people?”

However, Rife hasn’t learned much from his previous mistakes. As we previously mentioned, his recent set at the Hollywood Bowl was not just a misstep; it was a complete disaster. Making jokes about transgender people and trivialising cancel culture is not edgy—it’s tasteless and offensive. And trying to dismiss criticism by accusing others of jealousy? That’s not humility; it’s pure arrogance. It’s high time for Rife to reflect on his actions and understand that his so-called humour is not clever or insightful, it’s downright offensive.

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A post shared by Matt Rife (@mattrife)

During the show, Rife reportedly reflected on the lack of consequences he faced despite being “cancelled,” making light of the situation while dismissing it as inconsequential.

Matt Rife’s cavalier attitude towards the repercussions of his actions is concerning, and it sends a troubling message to his audience and peers alike.

According to Variety, Rife incorporated jokes about transgender individuals into his 90-minute set, acknowledging the potential controversy surrounding the topic. He reportedly made light of cancel culture by stating: “What am I gonna do? Get cancelled? Cool, I’ll do another Bowl show, awesome.”

During his performance, the comedian is said to have continued with multiple jokes about prison before engaging with an audience member who disclosed serving time for assault. Following this interaction, he turned to the individual’s date and asked if she was alright, before clarifying, “Guys, I’m kidding. Domestic violence is not funny, ever, ever, on any comedy special, ever.”

What makes Rife’s behaviour all the more concerning is the broader societal context in which it occurs. In a culture that often minimises and trivialises violence against women, comedians like Rife perpetuate harmful stereotypes and reinforce systemic inequalities. By normalising misogyny and making light of domestic violence, Rife not only disrespects survivors but also contributes to a culture of impunity where abusers go unpunished.

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