The Shady Side Of Matt Rife

Comedian Matt Rife has made rejecting political correctness and pushing back against cancel culture part of his brand. It's paid off handsomely for the former "Wild 'N Out" star, who teases what flavor of comedy fans can expect from him in the name of his first world tour: "ProbleMATTic."

Rife has made it no secret that he's not content to punch up; he doesn't steer clear of joking about the marginalized. He even includes a bit in his "Matt Steven Rife" comedy special in which he argues that jokes about transgender people shouldn't be off-limits because wheelchair users have it worse. During a discussion about cancel culture on "Cancelled with Tana Mongeau," Rife marveled over how white comedian Theo Von can get away with saying the n-word on his podcast and said he wants to find a similar audience. "That's why I've started to gear my comedy towards being so unapologetic," Rife stated. "I want to find the group of people who doesn't get offended by s***." 

Rife has, however, also admitted to worrying about some of his material landing him in hot water with the groups he jokes about. "I'll weigh the benefits ... Is it worth it to you making the people you want to make laugh? Is it worth that to offend these people?" he said during a roundtable discussion for TheWrap. But because of his shady behavior, he might feel haunted by the specter of the cancel culture bogeyman for the rest of his comedy career.

Matt Rife's Twitter controversy

Matt Rife's hatred of cancel culture may stem from the backlash he faced in 2016 when some of his past tweets were dredged up. Per Complex, another comedian, Brandon Wardell, is who tried to hold Rife accountable for his hurtful words. In a since-deleted tweet from 2012, Rife used both an anti-gay slur and a racist slur. He got caught casually dropping the f-word multiple times in other tweets and also made a joke about his growing follower count that read, "I'll be able to rape someone and get away with it in no time."

Instead of apologizing for his behavior, Rife demanded that Wardell apologize to him. However, it's unclear whether he was angrier about Wardell calling him out over his offensive tweets or poking fun at his thirst trap photos on Instagram. "I'm a comedian. And a f***ing man. Jokes are jokes. Disrespect is different. Don't ever f***ing try me," one of his many tweets directed at Wardell read. 

While Rife might yearn for a world where he as a comedian can say what he pleases without having to be concerned about offending people, it turns out that he isn't immune from getting offended. Speaking to Very Good Light, Rife insisted that he's neither homophobic nor racist and explained why it bothered him so much when Wardell took him to task. "I was offended that this person was in the same industry and community as I am and lives locally around me," he said.

He supported Dave Chappelle after he made anti-trans 'jokes'

One of Matt Rife's comedy heroes is Dave Chappelle, whose own comedy brand these days seems to be that of a gleeful sparring partner of the so-called "PC police." During his 2021 Netflix special "The Closer," Chappelle took his gloves off and punched down hard by cracking a number of offensive "jokes" about transgender people. He even took the side of those whose entire personalities seem to be based on their fear and loathing of the transgender community when he declared, "I'm team TERF!" (via Queerty).

When Chappelle was set to host "Saturday Night Live" the year after his Netflix special aired, Page Six reported that some of the show's writers were going to boycott his episode in a demonstration of solidarity with the trans community. This is where Rife comes in. "Awesome, they should quit entirely and just make it The Chappelle Show," he tweeted in response to the news. Rife and another comedian, Alex "Fonzi" Cureau, also stood outside NBC Studios while holding signs letting the network know that they would write material for Chappelle. TMZ showed up to quiz the duo, and Rife insisted that they weren't there because they share Chappelle's transphobic views. He did, however, reveal himself to be the type of entertainer who will cross picket lines to further his own career. "We're just here for jobs. That's it," he said. "How can you get mad at somebody who does the exact same thing you do?"

He bemoans social media while benefiting from it

Matt Rife knows that he owes a great deal of his success to social media. He's been doing standup since he was a teenager, but his comedy career didn't take off until he began posting clips of his crowd work on TikTok. Still, he takes every opportunity he can to voice his disdain for social media. "It's garbage, dude," he told The New York Times. "I'm canceled three times a week, bro." He further elaborated on why he dislikes social media in an interview with 1883 Magazine, saying, "I think it's horrible and it's one of the worst things to happen to humanity. It's so much drama and negativity and people's whole lives now are on a computer."

While he claims that he doesn't enjoy looking at other people's content on Instagram, Rife's own account is filled with professional shots that look more like those you'd expect to see on the page of a model. The photos inspire his fans to send him thirsty DMs — which earn them the comedian's ridicule. Rife told "E! News" he receives countless messages from "girls shooting their shot and missing wide left, by the way. Shooting bricks from a free throw."

As for TikTok, Rife told "Access" that he can't stand people who embrace TikTok culture. However, he bragged to CinemaBlend about how some of these same TikTokers save him money. "I don't have to do any advertising," he said. "They promote everything I do."

He dared to touch Zendaya

One moment Matt Rife may never live down is the time he played a game with Zendaya during a 2015 episode of "Wild 'N Out." Rife was a member of the cast at the time, and he and the ex-Disney Channel star were on opposing teams. Zendaya had a mouthful of water, and the object of the game was to get her to laugh so that she would be forced to spit it out.

Rife did a goofy little skip as he confidently approached the starlet. He then proceeded to confuse the show's host by saying to Zendaya in a seductive voice, "I'm Nick Cannon." The cringe factor increased exponentially when Rife tried awkwardly mentioning Zendaya's race before getting desperate and begging her, "Spit that water out so I can get your number, please!" As he spoke, he softly caressed her chin, causing her outraged teammates to lunge forward to confront Rife. Zendaya, meanwhile, reacted to his touch by cringing away from his fingers. 

Ahead of the episode airing, Rife made light of the situation on Instagram by writing, "Watch me get in Zendaya's personal space." He also included the hashtag "Inappropriate Or Nah," and some critics of his behavior have deemed it the latter. "How are y'all not getting the ick from Matt Rife? Do you not remember when he was on 'Wild 'N Out' and Zendaya completely swerved him?" one person wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, in 2023.

He broke up with a girlfriend over his mistake

Matt Rife titled one of his comedy specials "Walking Red Flag" as a joke, but the way one of his serious relationships ended seems like an actual red flag (and it's anything but funny). In an interview for comedian Bert Kreischer's podcast, "Bertcast," Rife revealed that things got so serious with one of his exes that he believed she was the woman he was going to marry. This obviously didn't happen. "Everything was great until it wasn't," said Rife. Kriescher wanted to know what went wrong, and Rife admitted, "I messed up a little bit." He did not divulge what he did wrong, but evidently, his ex was not the one who did the dumping. "Her reaction to that mess up made it a thousand times worse." It probably would have been a good idea for Rife to leave this part out.

You see, TikTok users don't just celebrate Rife's comedic talents on the app; they also use it to analyze his jokes and interviews. Once TikTokers caught wind of what he told Kriescher about his breakup, they were quick to call him out for trying to make his ex seem responsible for it when it was his behavior that set the split in motion. "What he really means is that he was held accountable and he didn't like it," said one TikToker. In response to a clip of the interview, another person suggested that what he did was "gaslighting."

His shady comment about Kate Beckinsale

Before Matt Rife started killing it on TikTok, he was probably best known for dating Kate Beckinsale, who played werewolf killer Selene in the "Underworld" movies. The relationship made him interesting enough to merit a mention by Radar; the webloid referred to him as "Kate Beckinsale's New Boy Toy" in its 2017 report on his offensive tweets.

People spoke to a source who said of Beckinsale, "She really seems to like him. She refers to him as an old soul. There is obviously a physical attraction too. The age [difference] doesn't matter to her." But perhaps Rife wasn't as mature as Beckinsale originally believed. Their relationship was short-lived, but it lasted long enough for Rife to tell TMZ in 2019, "It was complicated, for sure. A lot of ups and downs." However, the real shade came when TMZ wanted to know if Rife had some helpful advice for the new man in Beckinsale's life, comic casanova Pete Davidson. After awkwardly scratching his neck and grinning mischievously, Rife tried to do some damage to his ex's dating rep by responding, "Man-to-man, run." He also had a warning for Davidson, should he try to stick it out: "Be careful."

Rife and Beckinsale's 22-year age gap got a lot of attention when they were together, and we're guessing Rife never explained to her why he likes dating women in their 40s. "They're the best right before they're gross," he says in his "Only Fans" special.

He complained that being hot is a hindrance

Matt Rife has acknowledged that a great deal of his popularity comes from his appearance. Of his female fanbase that skews younger, he told Elite Daily, "They're not always the best stand-up comedy audience members. A lot of the time they like my face a lot more than my jokes, which is fine." He also jokes about his looks in his "Only Fans" special. "This is not good for comedy," he says of his transformation into a heartthrob. But drawing attention to his looks has been part of his schtick for a long time. He was comparing himself to Justin Bieber on Instagram way back in 2013, and he once described himself as "cute as f***" on "Wild 'N Out."

In 2023, Rife complained about his pretty people problems in a TikTok for Men's Health. "People don't want to laugh at physically attractive people," he said. The video went viral, and some critics decided that they'd had enough of Rife lamenting the adversity he must face due to his good looks. "Maybe his looks have hurt him in the past but I think it has certainly helped his career now," one Redditor wrote. "Let's be real, as much as he complains about it, he sure does leverage it." On X, Rife defended himself by saying that the TikTok video was meant to be humorous and that he had filched his quote about being too hot to be funny from Jonah Hill. 

His derogatory comments about women's bodies

Matt Rife disappointed a lot of his fans when he appeared on the "Stiff Socks" podcast in 2023 and made a number of offensive comments about women's bodies. He helped perpetuate unrealistic body ideals when he said that he prefers to date women with breast implants that don't look like breast implants. "You don't want her t*** to look like a burn victim," he said. He also did a great deal of body-shaming while discussing the size and shape of women's genitalia. One of his remarks on the tamer side was, "I don't want to look down and [be] like, 'God left the tag on you. Like I gotta return to sender.'" He also compared their appearance to chewed gum. 

Speaking to Metro about Rife's objectification of women, sex educator Zoya Ali said, "Such comments can potentially negatively impact an individual's psychological and physiological wellbeing." She pointed out that comments like Rife's may make some women feel so insecure about their bodies that they get unnecessary surgery to change the appearance of their labia. And while everyone has different preferences when it comes to what they find physically attractive, it's possible to vocalize these preferences without demeaning people. 

For the record, Rife supposedly knows what it's like to feel like he doesn't measure up to a certain ideal. "I have massive insecurities about multiple parts of my body and face," he tweeted.

His fib about women who enjoy nautical adventures

In 2023, Page Six reported that Matt Rife was dating "Find Me in Paris" actor Jessia Lord. Rife fans who were curious about the new woman in his life started scouring her Instagram page for information about her interests and hobbies, and they made a shocking discovery: She enjoys hanging out on boats. While listing his relationship red flags in his "Only Fans" special, Rife says, "I don't f*** with girls who go on boats. It's h** s***." But when Lord shared some photos on Instagram of herself and a few friends partying on a small waterborne vessel, Rife was right there in the comments voicing his approval. "It's aboat time," he quipped. In response, one Instagrammer wrote, "I see you made an exception about girls on boats."

For Rife, another red flag is being enthusiastic about Ouija boards. But Rife himself is a believer in the paranormal and was eager to talk about ghosts on "The Joe Rogan Experience." He told Joe Rogan, "Really weird side hobby of mine: I go ghost hunting." So, it's cool for him to try to contact the undead but a dealbreaker if a date does it.

It's not paranormal activity that Rife fears the most. "My biggest insecurity is security," he told Esquire. "In entertainment, absolutely no work is guaranteed other than the job you're doing today. You can get fired. You can lose fans. You can get canceled." But only if you're super shady.

Critics weren't laughing at his domestic violence joke

When Matt Rife appeared on the "No Chaser" podcast in 2019, he joked that he would have sex with an octogenarian Netflix executive to make his longtime dream of getting his own special come true. It finally did in 2023, but some critics were perplexed by his decision to switch up his comedic style for his "Natural Selection" special. "I would argue this special is way more for guys," Rife told Variety.

One way he tried to appeal to men was by making light of a serious issue that causes many women to live in fear for their lives. Setting the tone for his special, he shared an anecdote about a friend suggesting that a restaurant hostess with a black eye should have been in the kitchen where customers couldn't see her. According to Rife, he replied, "I feel like if she could cook, she wouldn't have that black eye." Joking about victims of domestic violence is certainly one way to signify to the world that you're the type of comedian who relishes punching down.

On X, Rife got eviscerated by critics who found this joke not just offensive but unfunny and outdated. "Did he steal this groaner from the elder care facility?" one person quipped. He was also slammed by those who have experienced domestic violence firsthand. "Take your mom to the ER w/broken ribs when you're 17, then ask me if the jokes are funny," read another tweet.

His ableist response to critics

In response to those who criticized his domestic violence joke, Matt Rife resorted to trolling them on the Internet. "If you've ever been offended by a joke I've told — here's a link to my official apology," he wrote on his Instagram Story. The link took those who clicked on it to a website that sells helmets for people with special needs. In response to this move, one X (former known as Twitter) user wrote, "This guy is truly not smart enough to be funny." Another tweeted, "It's a shame it took Matt rife making domestic violence and special needs jokes for y'all to realize he just ain't f***ing funny."

Rife continued his jokes about people with special needs in "Natural Selection" — one of his bits is about the genitals of a former classmate who had Down syndrome. In an essay for South Central PA Mom, the mother of a child with Down syndrome called Rife out for talking about the boy "as if he was an animal at the zoo" and perpetuating the stigma that people with the genetic disorder are prone to unintentionally harming others.

Some critics have speculated that Rife is trying to stir up controversy because he wants to market himself as a "canceled" comedian. "He's about to do a right wing edge lord rebrand," one person tweeted. Rife's far-right-wing defenders already include influencer Tim Pool, who once said that he found it "funny" that a Neo-Nazi who murdered eight people was a fan of his show.

His threat to sue a plastic surgeon elicited eye rolls

Did Matt Rife prove that he's incapable of taking a joke? This is what some of his detractors believed after seeing the message Rife left on the Many Faces of Chicago Instagram page. The popular account is run by Dr. Benjamin Caughlin, a plastic surgeon who often shares comedic content with his followers. A video of the doc skipping down a hall includes the caption, "Me after creating the greatest jawline ever seen just for my patient to get cancelled right after." Rife wrote in the comments section, "Lying about medical history is illegal, just FYI."

Caughlin has since turned off the comments on the post, but the damage was already done — Rife had just given the internet another excuse to roast him. "The fact that Matt Rife was dumb enough to respond makes it seem true," one person tweeted. "Funniest thing he's ever done." Another tweet read, "Matt Rife: if you were offended by my special you need a SPECIAL NEEDS HELMET. Also Matt Rife: if you joke about my jawline I will sue you."

Rife's comment sparked a discussion about whether the shape of his jaw actually is the result of plastic surgery, which is something he denied on the "Cancelled" podcast. All of the chatter about Rife also reminded comedian Dina Hashem of his purported attempt to get her cancelled in 2019, apparently over a joke she made about using XXXTentacion's death in a Venmo ad.

He was accused of stealing a joke from Ralphie May

Matt Rife had a close bond with Ralphie May, whom he considered a mentor, friend, and incredibly funny comic. On "Bertcast," Rife reminisced about touring with May early in his career and revealed that he got his veneers with the money May paid him. So, you could say that May made him smile in more than one way. "He was the first person to believe in me," Rife wrote in an Instagram tribute to May after the "Last Comic Standing" star's 2017 death.

Because May was someone he looked up to during his formative years as a comedian, Rife's material was naturally going to be influenced by what he saw the older comic doing. But one X user accused Rife of straight-up stealing jokes from someone who is no longer here to call him out for such behavior, and they brought receipts. In a video clip, May jokes about a classmate with special needs being well-endowed. This is followed by footage of Rife telling his similar joke in the "Natural Selection" special. He doesn't repeat May's bit word-for-word, but like his late friend, he does also joke about his classmate being blessed by a higher power that is trying to be fair. "Even if this isn't stolen, regardless of how you feel about the subject matter, I hope people can see how much more well written and delivered Ralphie's is," read one response to the video.

Is he wrong about why people dislike him?

Amid the discourse surrounding Matt Rife's "Natural Selection" special, a snippet of his "Cancelled" interview went viral. In it, Rife muses about why it is that some people just can't seem to stand him. He recalls getting introspective and thinking about why he dislikes certain people, concluding that they have a single trait in common. "People only hate somebody they're jealous of," he says. But host Tana Mongeau doesn't let him get away with stroking his ego using this reasoning. "That was a really, really good, well-rounded answer I'm trying to wrap my head around," she says. "Do you think people who hate Osama bin Laden are jealous of him?"

To find out why his critics really dislike him, all Rife has to do is look at social media; complaints about his behavior abound, whether it's his seeming sensitivity to criticism or his jokes that have offended various communities. It also doesn't help matters when he says things like, "I pride myself on making my comedy for everybody," which is a statement he made in his Variety interview — the same one in which he admitted to wanting to prioritize getting laughs from his bro fans.

Rife might also chuckle a little if he checks out some of the content he's inspired. His behavior has brought out the best in internet comedians, one of whom tweeted, "Every joke I've seen making fun of Matt Rife is 1000x funnier than anything he's ever said."