Evolutionary misstep

Published date05 December 2023
Publication titleSignal
BECAUSE I am a middle-aged man, I am not on TikTok. This is why I had not heard of the hot new comedian Matt Rife before his comedy special Natural Selection popped up on Netflix late last month. Apparently, his TikTok videos are very funny. I’m having a hard time believing that

Rife was a journeyman comic before he began posting crowd-work videos to TikTok. These snippets of impromptu banter with members of the audience took off on the video-sharing social network like a rocket and exploded his career like it was made by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. He now boasts an incredible 18million followers.

Whether through calculation and design or merely the almighty algorithm recognising that Rife is a very handsome fellow and subsequently feeding his vids to a receptive audience, I do not know. But Rife’s crowd-work videos quickly attracted a sizable female audience which in turn attracted Netflix’s attention.

Rife’s been unfairly criticised by some uncharitable critics suggesting his career is based solely on his good looks and not his comedy chops. I do not subscribe to that notion. Good-looking people can be funny. Just look at me.

But there is a big difference between getting laughs through impromptu banter with the audience and crafting top-class material that can sustain momentum for a solid hour and poor old, good-looking Rife does not even get past the starting line without stumbling.

He opens with a domestic violence bit that is so old I thought he was going to follow it up with ‘‘Take my wife, please!’’. Instead, the trending comedian unleashes a set that is as fresh as stale bread. Dick jokes, airline jokes, fat people jokes ... What year is this?

He also spends a large chunk of time expressing his annoyance at the fanbase he has grown and cultivated for the past three years on TikTok. He does not like that his audience is largely women and he does not like that they are not a crowd of cool men. But most of all he does not like that he is TikTok famous. He is, you understand, a real comedian. One who...

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