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Matt Rife discusses domestic violence, pranks and special needs helmets

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Matt Rife discusses domestic violence, pranks and special needs helmets

Matt Rife nodded to his controversial 2023 Netflix special, which sparked anger over a joke about domestic violence, during his sold-out Hollywood Bowl show on Wednesday.

He broached the subject during an almost ninety-minute set with jokes about drugs, the elderly and insomnia. At one point, the 28-year-old comedian smoked a joint with a 68-year-old woman in the audience. Much of Rife’s stand-up set revolved around what types of jokes are “OK” and “not OK” to say, especially in front of a Los Angeles audience.

After making a few jokes about transgender people, Rife quipped, “What should I do? Be cancelled? Cool, I’m doing another Bowl show, great.

He continued, “You know, that’s not real punishment… nothing happens. Prison is a punishment.”

Rife then delved into several prison jokes, addressing his controversial domestic violence joke head-on. He went to a crowdwork segment where he spoke to an audience member who had apparently served a prison sentence for assault. “Ma’am, are you okay?” Rife asked about the man’s date before joking, “Guys, I’m kidding.” Domestic violence is never funny, in any comedy special.”

Rife’s first Netflix special – “Natural Selection” – premiered in November 2023 to rapid response.

The comedian, who had already amassed a huge social media following at the time, joked at the beginning of his special about noticing a hostess at a Baltimore restaurant who had a black eye. In the joke, Rife’s dining companion wondered why the hostess wasn’t working in the kitchen so customers wouldn’t see the black eye. Rife then joked, “Yeah, but I feel like if she could cook, she wouldn’t have that black eye.”

Rife added in the special that he was “just testing the waters, to see if y’all are going to like it or not. … I think if we start the show with domestic violence, the rest of the show should flow smoothly.

After the ensuing internet storm, Rife wrote in an Instagram story, “If you’ve ever been offended by a joke I’ve told, here’s a link to my official apology,” and provided a link that read, “Tap to solve the problem problem.” The link took viewers to a website where they could purchase special needs helmets, seemingly mocking sensitive viewers and adding fuel to the fire.

At the start of his Hollywood Bowl set, which was part of the Netflix Is a Joke festival, Rife also commented on the helmet fiasco. “I got in so much trouble because I made a joke about special needs helmets, and then I come to LA and perform with the biggest helmet,” Rife said, referring to the circular structure of the Hollywood Bowl.

Despite the backlash, Rife’s ‘Natural Selection’ special was viewed more than 10 million times in the first few weeks of its release and reached the Global Top 10 in 42 countries. Rife has two more specials in the works for Netflix, including the streamer’s first-ever full-length crowdwork special.

Ahead of his latest special, the Ohio native shared Variety: “I don’t really like that whole sensitivity thing in the comedy world that you can’t say anything anymore. That’s nonsense. You can say whatever you want. Now you must prepare for the consequences. But in the end it all comes down to how you sleep at night.”

“I like dark humor,” he continued. “I don’t think there’s anything you can’t talk about if you do it the right way, at the right time. Ultimately, I think you just have to go outside. You have to be yourself and not worry about offending a certain number of people. You might miss a joke that you’re afraid will offend someone, but could win you a million new fans.”

The Netflix is ​​a joke comedy festival runs from May 1 to 12 at various locations in LA