Matt Rife laughs off domestic violence joke controversy at Netflix Is a Joke show

Matt Rife has addressed the backlash he faced last year due to a joke about domestic violence.

The 28-year-old US comedian began his 2023 Netflix special, Natural Selection, with an anecdote about a waitress with black eye.

“My boy who I was with was like, ‘Yeah, I feel bad for her, man, I feel like they should put her in the kitchen or something where nobody has to see her face.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, but I feel like if she could cook, she wouldn’t have that black eye,’” Rife joked.

Rife responded to the criticism at the time with an Instagram Story aimed at those “offended by a joke I told”: “Tap to solve your issue,” read a URL link, which directed his followers to a website selling helmets for people with special needs.

The Ohio native broached the subject on Wednesday (8 May) during his show at the Hollywood Bowl, which was part of the Netflix Is a Joke Fest in Los Angeles.

After making jokes about transgender people, Rife quipped: “What am I gonna do? Get cancelled? Cool, I’ll do another Bowl show, awesome.”

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

Comedian/actor Matt Rife (Getty Images)
Comedian/actor Matt Rife (Getty Images)

After riffing about prison, he then spoke to an audience member who had apparently served time for assault, Variety reported.

“Ma’am, are you okay?” Rife asked the man’s date before adding: “Guys, I’m kidding. Domestic violence is not funny, ever, ever, on any comedy special ever.”

Rife also joked about his response to the controversy during his show at the Bowl: “I got in so much trouble for making a joke about special needs helmets, and then I come to LA and perform in the biggest helmet,” he said, referring to the venue’s dome-like stage.

Prior to the release of his Netflix special, Rife told Variety that Natural Selection was “way more for guys”.

“One thing I wanted to tackle in this special was showing people that, despite what you think about me online, I don’t pander my career to women,” he said.

When asked whether he’s worried about offending audiences with his darker material, Rife replied: “You don’t know what other people are into and that’s why you have to go out there and do your comedy and just lay it all out there, vulnerably, to find your audience.

“The way I look at it is, as a comedian everything comes down to intent,” he added. “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.”

Earlier last year, Rife’s comments about women’s bodies during an episode of the Stiff Socks podcast were widely condemned.

Reflecting on the “insane” backlash to his podcast appearance during a subsequent interview with The New York Times, Rife said: “You’re mad at somebody that’s just trying to make you laugh? That’s such an insane concept to me.”

The national domestic abuse helpline offers support for women on 0808 2000 247, or you can visit the Refuge website. There is a dedicated men’s advice line on 0808 8010 327. Those in the US can call the domestic violence hotline on 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Other international helplines can be found via