Matt Rife’s first-ever Netflix comedy special is receiving major backlash, but the comedian has stayed unbothered amid the controversy.
“If you’ve ever been offended by a joke I’ve told — here’s a link to my official apology,” Rife, 28, shared via Instagram on Monday, November 20. The link directed Instagram users to an online store where they can purchase Special Needs Helmets.
The link appeared to be a callback to one of his Matt Rife: Natural Selection jokes in which he discusses special needs — making an NSFW joke about one of his former classmates in particular — for an uncomfortable four minutes. (The joke is referenced various times throughout the special.)
Even earlier in the special, Rife made a joke about domestic violence, recounting a trip to Baltimore where he and a friend dined at a restaurant in which their waitress had a black eye. While questioning why she wouldn’t work in the kitchen so people didn’t see the injury, Rife said: “But I feel like if she could cook, she wouldn’t have that black eye.”
Fans took to X (formerly Twitter) to react to the special.
“I rather hear nails on a chalkboard than hear matt rife trying to appeal to men,” one social media user wrote. Another added, “Every joke i’ve seen making fun of matt rife is 1000x funnier than anything he’s ever said.”
A third added, “The way women catapulted matt rife into popularity and the second he gets a comedy special on netflix he immediately betrays them with a joke about domestic violence crazy innit.”
Regarding the domestic violence joke, the comedian stated that he was “just testing the waters, seeing if y’all are gonna be fun or not” during the special. (Matt Rife: Natural Selection was filmed at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, DC.)
“I figure if we start the show with domestic violence the rest of the show should be smooth sailing,” Rife continued.
It appears that Rife anticipated some flack from the public ahead of the special’s release as he previously stated that there are no rules about sensitivity in the comedy world.
“I don’t really adhere to this whole sensitivity rumor in the comedy world that you can’t say anything anymore,” Rife told Variety in an interview published on November 14. “That’s bulls—t. 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.”
He added, “Other people’s perspective of you isn’t your responsibility. So how can you sleep at night? The way I look at it is, as a comedian everything comes down to intent. I know for me, everything that leaves my mouth on stage is purely with the intention of making people laugh. It’s never any deeper, never any more or never any less than that. That’s all it is to me.”
Rife went on to say that he’s a fan of “dark humor” with his comedy specifically.
“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,” he added. “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.”