‘What Am I Gonna Do? Get Canceled? … That’s Not a Real Punishment’ : Matt Rife Nods to Domestic Violence Joke Controversy, Quips After Trans Jokes

During his sold-out Hollywood Bowl show on Wednesday, Matt Rife nodded to his controversial 2023 Netflix special, which sparked ire due to a joke about domestic violence

Published Time: 09.05.2024 - 17:31:39 Modified Time: 09.05.2024 - 17:31:39

During his sold-out Hollywood Bowl show on Wednesday, Matt Rife nodded to his controversial 2023 Netflix special, which sparked ire due to a joke about domestic violence.

He broached the subject during a nearly 90-minute set featuring jokes about drugs, old people and insomnia. At one point, the 28-year-old comedian smoked a joint with a 68-year-old woman in the crowd. Much of Rife’s stand-up set revolved around what types of jokes are “OK” and “not OK” to say, especially in front of a Los Angeles crowd.

After making a few jokes about transgender people, Rife quipped, “What am I gonna do? Get canceled? Cool, I’ll do another Bowl show, awesome.”

He went on, “You know that’s not a real punishment… nothing happens. Prison’s a punishment.”

Rife then dove into several prison jokes and addressed his controversial domestic violence joke head-on. He went into a crowd work segment that involved talking to an audience member who had apparently served time for assault. “Ma’am, are you okay?” Rife asked the man’s date before quipping, “Guys, I’m kidding. Domestic violence is not funny, ever, ever, on any comedy special ever.”

Rife’s first Netflix special — “Natural Selection” — premiered in November 2023 and was met with swift backlash.

The comedian, who by that point had already amassed a huge social media following, made a joke near the start of his special about noticing a hostess at a Baltimore restaurant who had a black eye. In the joke, Rife’s dining companion wondered why the hostess wasn’t working in the kitchen so that customers wouldn’t see the black eye. Rife then quipped, “Yeah, but I feel like if she could cook, she wouldn’t have that black eye.”

Rife added in the special that he was “just testing the waters, seeing if y’all are gonna be fun or not. … I figure if we start the show with domestic violence, the rest of the show should be smooth sailing.”

After the subsequent internet storm, Rife wrote in an Instagram story, “If you’ve e -

ver been offended by a joke I’ve told, here’s a link to my official apology,” and provided a link that read, “Tap to solve the issue.” The link directed viewers to a website to buy special needs helmets, seemingly mocking sensitive viewers and adding fuel to the fire.

Near the start of his Hollywood Bowl set, which was part of the Netflix Is a Joke festival, Rife also made a remark about the helmet fiasco. “I got in so much trouble for making a joke about special needs helmets, and then I come to L.A. and perform in the biggest helmet,” Rife said, referring to the Hollywood Bowl’s round structure.

Despite the backlash, Rife’s “Natural Selection” special brought in more than 10 million views in the first few weeks of its release and reached the Global Top 10 in 42 countries. Rife has two more specials in the works with Netflix, including the streamer’s first-ever full-length crowd work special.

Prior to his last special, the Ohio native told Variety: “I don’t really adhere to this whole sensitivity rumor in the comedy world that you can’t say anything anymore. That’s bullshit. You can say whatever you want. Now, you have to prepare for repercussions. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to how do you sleep at night.”

“I like dark humor,” he continued. “I don’t believe there’s anything you can’t talk about if you do it correctly, in the right way, at the right time. At the end of the day, I think you need to just go out there. You have to be yourself and not worry about offending a certain amount of people. You might miss out on a joke that you’re worried might offend somebody, but might make you a million new fans.”

The Netflix Is a Joke comedy festival runs May 1-12 at various venues in L.A.

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