28-year-old standup comic Matt Rife is, at his very core, just like everyone else, in that he’s never been canceled.
Echoing the success of fellow push-up enthusiast Dane Cook back in the era when being in enough people’s Top 8 could still get you famous (ask your parents) the Ohio-born Rife rose to prominence through the power of the internet, building a fanbase through his self-produced specials Only Fans, Matthew Steven Rife, and Walking Red Flag between 2021 and 2023. Before that, he picked up steam thanks to small roles on Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Fresh Off the Boat, and on the long-running sketch series Wild ‘n Out.
Bright lights draw bugs. Along with stardom, adulation, a Netflix deal, and a brief relationship with Kate Beckinsale, Rife’s fame got him some negative attention. Accusations began to make the rounds – a particularly eye-catching scandal hit Cracked in 2023, revolving around a joke that Rife told with similar subject matter to a Ralphie May bit. The accusing party on Twitter called the joke “nearly a direct lift” before posting clips from both acts with nearly no shared words or cadence. Cracked called the bombshell a “doozy.” Cracked readers called it “why we don’t read Cracked anymore.”
Then there was the Men’s Health interview in which Rife, who sports the same body type as most G.I. Joes, addressed his own physical attractiveness. He stated that being, empirically speaking, a cutie with a patootie had, if anything, made things more difficult for him as he pursued a vocation in being stared at by big groups of people. “You have to win people over more often,” he explained to Today. Miraculously, his career survived this.
And then there was Twitter, that great social minefield that we lay out in front of our future selves after three beers in our 20s. In Rife’s case, a series of poorly thought-out tweets (reported on by Fandom Wire) from 2016 bubbled back up in light of his recent fame. The posts featured less than sensitive thoughts on the subject of the LGBTQ+ community, a laissez-faire attitude about social mores, and, inevitably, the N-word.
Of his many resurfaced tweets from his past, there was also the one (swiftly deleted) post about everyone at the Oscars “waiting to see if the cast of ‘Parasite’ coughs,” which illuded to the accusation that Asians are the cause for COVID-19′ originated in China’s origin. Rife deleted all these tweets and while it did nothing to dampen the intensity of the respective backlash each time, he remained uncanceled.
Despite all of that, Rife’s career has only grown stronger, propelled forward by the words of detractors like a baking soda submarine filled with other people’s opinions about him and what he said, says, and will continue to say. So, whether we peek back at the past or stay in this moment, Matt Rife remains, pretty objectively, not canceled. Having a new, professionally produced special available to stream definitely doesn’t spell “canceled,” does it?
Rife’s Natural Selection is available on Netflix now.