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Matt Rife

Dear Matt Rife, misogyny isn’t funny

If you’ve been online in the past few days, then you have probably heard that former internet darling Matt Rife has been quite the misogynist. For those of you who don’t know who Matt RIfe is, he is a ‘comedian’ who has gained traction online over the past year, largely because he has a sharp jawline and a penchant for flirting with women in his audiences. Clips of him brushing his hair back and engaging with women in his crowds cemented him as a comedian that many women actively followed and enjoyed. In large part, his career and success have been built by a large female audience. 

This good fortune landed him his very own Netflix special, something that many contemporary comedians aspire to as a launch pad for a truly lucrative career in comedy. Netflix specials have put comedians like Ali Wong on the map and carried them to major opportunities in film and TV. To put it simply, this was probably the biggest gig of Rife’s career.

Now you might think that such a platform would breed some pressure, maybe even creating a barrier to some of the more risque jokes in your set, but not for Rife. Instead, he had the delightfully bright idea of alienating his largely female audience with an opening joke about domestic abuse, dripping in misogyny. The joke goes as follows, Rife tells us about a time he was in a restaurant with a friend and noticed that the woman serving him had a black eye (oh please help me stifle my laughter…). He continues that the waitress should be working in the kitchen instead of showing her face to the customers. The joke ends with him retorting, “Yeah, but I feel like if she could cook, she wouldn’t have that black eye”. How hilarious.

@debbydesperado

He ate with that one Wednesday Addams joke a year ago and that wasnt even him, that was cause a baddie stole the show #netflix #mattrife

♬ original sound – 📺

Rife, in his continued clownery, then posted an ‘apology’ to his Instagram story with an attached link. In a year of truly awful public apologies, looking at you, Colleen Ballinger, he may have just had the most tone-deaf of all. He linked to a website selling special needs helmets and indicated that those who are offended by sexism are actually mentally disabled. How delightfully edgelord of you, Matt. 

He clarified in an interview with Variety that he acknowledges his largely female-driven rise to fame, stating, “In the beginning, yes, because I did blow up on TikTok, which is very female dominant…So, I get that perspective”. He would later state that he wanted his special, named ‘Natural Selection’, to be male-focused, continuing “I would argue this special is way more for guys”. 

Well, it’s safe to say that he achieved his goal. In pandering to cheap misogynistic humour, he has obliterated a large portion of the audience who built him up in the first place. While I am a person who can accept and even enjoys a darker sense of humour, there is a key distinction that needs to be made when talking about Rife. When straight white men make jokes at the expense of others, be it jokes about women, LGBTQ+ people, people of colour, or disabled people, they exercise their power and privilege over these groups. They speak from the position of the oppressor, not the oppressed. Instead of finding humour from first-hand experience, they belittle the experiences of people with less social capital than themselves. 

Rife is not unique in this approach; nearly every straight male comedian over the past 50 years has, to some degree, utilised some form of discrimination in their comedy. Rife stands out, though, because his blundering onto the mainstage reveals that despite owing a lot of his platform to women, he is completely okay with minimising serious and life-threatening issues they face. His fratboy rebrand, or rather his fratboy mask-off, exposes something that many of us know deep down. Men do not care about the issues faced by women and minorities. His doubling down after the backlash, with the extra sprinkle of ableism, shows as much. It also reminds us that for men like Rife, the fear of domestic abuse is so far out of their reality that it is absurd and laughable. 

There are many women online who are springing to Rife’s defence, even some who are survivors of domestic abuse, who are saying they didn’t find the joke offensive. Drew Afualo put it best, I think, in a recent TikTok where she asked, “Are you really okay with jokes like that? Or have you been conditioned to be okay with that kind of comedy?”. To be frank, I can’t see how saying that women who don’t perform domestic tasks to a man’s satisfaction deserve to be hit, even as a joke, is ever funny. Shocking, I know. When it comes from a man, I don’t want to hear anything even close to it, not when two women a week are murdered in the UK by a domestic partner. Such jokes are tired and weak comedy. When someone can’t find astute or intelligent humour, they punch down on people they perceive to be below them. 

@drewafualo

i do LOVE being a silly goofy female so let’s do it lmfaoooooooooooooo

♬ original sound – Drew Afualo

Men like Matt Rife are nothing new, and they aren’t going away. There’s a merry band of fuckwits behind him, ready to pepper up equally immature guys who still think domestic violence and rape jokes are the pinnacle of comedic excellence. Here’s the kicker, men don’t move units like women and the queer community do. Look no further than the astronomic success of the Barbie Movie, The Eras Tour, and The Rennaissance Tour this year alone to show that a female majority audience will move units. Women are drivers of what is in Vogue in pop culture, and women know how to be devoted as a fan base. Enjoy relevancy while it lasts, Matt.