Controversial Comedian Matt Rife’s Netflix Special Sparks Backlash and Raises Questions About Comedy in the Streaming Era

Rife’s debut special, “Natural Selection,” has garnered attention for its offensive content and mediocre performance, leading to a broader discussion about the standards for comedy on platforms like Netflix.

Comedian Matt Rife’s Netflix special, “Natural Selection,” has become a hot topic of debate and controversy since its premiere. While the show has achieved initial success by landing in the top 10 on Netflix, it has also faced intense criticism for its offensive jokes and lackluster performance. The backlash against Rife’s special has sparked a larger conversation about the boundaries of comedy and the role of streaming platforms in promoting and amplifying controversial content. This article explores the reasons behind Rife’s rise to fame, dissects the problematic aspects of his special, and examines the implications for the comedy industry and culture at large.

Matt Rife has been trying to be famous for over a decade:

Rife’s opening joke, which makes light of domestic violence, has drawn significant attention and backlash. However, it is important to note that the entire special is riddled with offensive material. Rife’s jokes target various vulnerable groups, from women and those who believe in pseudoscience to individuals with intellectual disabilities and the LGBTQ+ community. The overwhelmingly negative feedback from viewers, with just 16 percent giving the special a favorable review on Rotten Tomatoes, highlights the lack of comedic quality and the offensive nature of Rife’s content.

Rife’s response to the backlash has only further fueled the controversy. By liking tweets that defended him and posting a sarcastic apology on Instagram, he demonstrated a lack of understanding and empathy towards those offended by his jokes. Furthermore, past instances of Rife’s offensive behavior, such as defending his comedy by claiming people only hate those they’re jealous of and making derogatory remarks about women, have resurfaced, adding to the public’s disapproval.

It took TikTok to make Matt Rife happen. Media hype – and women – did the rest:

Despite Rife’s previous struggles to maintain a successful career in comedy, his fortunes changed when he started posting snippets of his crowd work on TikTok. A viral clip of Rife engaging with an audience member catapulted him to fame, and his stand-up segments, primarily focused on crowd interactions, became a TikTok sensation. Rife’s popularity among straight women, who were drawn to his performances for the chance to flirt with him or be charmed by his good looks, further contributed to his rise in fame.

Rife’s newfound success prompted media outlets to focus heavily on his physical appearance, describing him as hot, sexy, and handsome. This emphasis on his looks, coupled with his interactions with female audience members, created a dynamic that made it difficult to reconcile the offensive nature of his comedy with his primary demographic. Rife’s comedy, which often targets vulnerable groups, raises questions about whether his popularity is based on his humor or his physical attractiveness.

Rife’s clear rules for “good comedy.” But can he follow them?

In defending his comedy, Rife has echoed sentiments shared by veteran comedian Anthony Jeselnik, who believes that offensive jokes can be acceptable if they are funny. However, many TikTokers have pointed out that the core issue with Rife’s special is not just its offensive content but also its lack of comedic value. Rife himself has defended other comedians facing backlash, arguing that offensive jokes are acceptable as long as they are funny. While he advocates for comedians to stay true to themselves and not apologize for their jokes, the negative reception of his own special suggests that he may need to reassess his approach.

Should Netflix comedy specials have higher barriers to entry?

The success of Rife’s special on Netflix raises questions about the platform’s standards for comedy. While his special has achieved popularity, the negative response from viewers indicates a potential gap between the expectations of the audience and the content being promoted. The TikTok-to-Netflix comedy pipeline has proven to be a powerful force, with a Netflix special offering comedians a massive global audience. However, it also highlights the need for platforms to ensure that the comedians they promote are not only popular but also genuinely talented.


The controversy surrounding Matt Rife’s Netflix special, “Natural Selection,” has ignited a broader discussion about the boundaries of comedy and the role of streaming platforms in amplifying controversial content. Rife’s offensive jokes and lackluster performance have drawn significant backlash from viewers and raised questions about the standards for comedy on platforms like Netflix. The rise of TikTok as a platform for comedians to gain fame has also highlighted the need for a more discerning approach when promoting comedians to larger audiences. As the comedy industry evolves in the streaming era, it becomes increasingly important to strike a balance between artistic freedom and responsible content creation.






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