Matt Rife’s “Natural Selection” Special: A Defensive and Underwhelming Performance

Comedian Matt Rife’s first Netflix special, “Natural Selection,” showcases a defensive and antagonistic stance towards his audience, resulting in a lackluster and uninspiring performance.

Matt Rife’s Netflix special, “Natural Selection,” opens with a risky joke about domestic violence, setting the tone for an hour filled with danger, naughtiness, and crossed lines. Rife, a young comedian who gained fame through social media, takes a defensive stance throughout the performance, questioning whether the audience will be on board with him or revolt against his controversial material. However, this defensiveness often leads to timidity or aggression, resulting in a special that falls short of expectations.

The Ease and Limitations of Dick Jokes

Rife’s material heavily relies on dick jokes, with variations on size, masturbation, and making women orgasm. While these jokes provide a safe haven in a world where sensitive topics feel treacherous, they lack depth and originality. Rife fails to explore the role of sex in his own conceptions of safety and power, instead resorting to juvenile humor that elicits laughs but fails to leave a lasting impression.

Defensive Conservatism and Safe Premises

Rife’s material in “Natural Selection” is noticeably safe and conservative, seemingly driven by the fear of alienating new viewers. His jokes lack new ideas, shifts in perspective, or underlying themes. While his previous YouTube specials touched on more contentious issues like transphobia and race, this Netflix special retreats into a defensive conservatism that fails to challenge the audience or push comedic boundaries.

Antagonism Towards Online Haters

Towards the end of the special, Rife’s defensiveness turns into antagonism as he confronts online haters. A story about an unpleasant flight to Vancouver becomes a platform for Rife to express his frustration with those who criticize him online. However, his response lacks humor or insightful commentary, ultimately revealing a deep-seated frustration with people who fail to understand him. Rife’s inability to engage with social media criticism in a productive way undermines the potential for growth and self-reflection.

A Special in Dialogue with the Audience

“Natural Selection” is a special that attempts to engage with Rife’s audience, but ultimately fails to foster genuine dialogue. The editing avoids shots of audience reactions, and Rife’s mic drop moment reinforces his desire to distance himself from the crowd. Despite his defensive stance, Rife still craves audience approval and engagement, as evidenced by his post-credits crowdwork scene. This contradiction highlights his need for validation and the difficulty of navigating fame in the age of social media.


Matt Rife’s “Natural Selection” is a defensive and underwhelming Netflix special that showcases his struggle to balance his comedic style with the expectations of his audience. The reliance on safe premises and juvenile humor limits the depth and impact of his performance. While Rife’s defensiveness and antagonism towards online haters are evident throughout, his desire for audience engagement and approval remains undeniable. “Natural Selection” ultimately falls short of delivering a thought-provoking and engaging comedic experience.






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