The Complete Transformation Of Matt Rife

The following article mentions suicide, mental health struggles, and domestic violence. 

A lot of entertainers are tagged with the "overnight success" label, but few have achieved such a meteoric rise as Matt Rife. One of the hottest names in standup comedy, Rife is among the ever-increasing group of stars who've become famous via social media — in his case, TikTok.

Thanks to one of his routines going viral, the Ohio-born comic has been able to parlay his online celebrity into mainstream showbiz success. That was proven when presale tickets for his ProbleMATTic World Tour were offered — and he wound up selling more than 600,000 within the first 48 hours. That was a far cry from just a year earlier, when he struggled to fill hundred-seat venues and contemplated packing it in and finding another vocation. "It still feels completely unreal," Rife marveled of his stratospheric success in an interview with Deadline.

Despite his youth, Rife is no comedy rookie; in fact, he's been performing standup since he was a teenager. As a result, his recent ascent to a whole other level of celebrity is not something that he takes lightly. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that most people do not get," he said in that interview, laying out the philosophy with which he'd approached his sudden success. "So enjoy it," he added, "but work on maintaining it." As he continues his climb up the showbiz ladder, read on to find out how he got there by experiencing the complete transformation of Matt Rife.

Matt Rife grew up without a father

Matt Rife never knew his dad. During an April 2022 appearance on comedian Bert Kreischer's "Bertcast," Rife opened up about the sad reason why he wound up growing up without a father. "No Dad," Rife told Kreischer. "My dad died when I was like one," he said, revealing that his father died by suicide. When Kreischer asked for more details, Rife replied, "He was 20, I think. It's weird to think about. Because I'm 26 now, and when you think about your dad, no matter what state, you think about a grown man. But I'm older than my dad ever was." According to Rife, he's still not entirely clear about the circumstances underlying his father's cause of death. "My mom said it was just probably depression," he said.

With his father out of the picture, Rife's grandfather became his de facto father figure. "My mom and I lived with him for the first five years since I was born," Matt told Numéro, indicating that his grandfather was a definite influence in his decision to pursue a career in standup comedy. "He was a very funny guy, just a raunchy old man," Rife recalled.

His comedy career began at a high school talent show

While growing up, Matt Rife began to develop an interest in comedy, particularly Dane Cook and Dave Chappelle. As Rife recalled in a video for Famous Birthdays, his own foray into comedy officially began when a classmate encouraged him to enter high school talent show. Though he was reluctant to participate in the talent competition, he also knew he wanted to give a standup career a shot. "And she was like, 'Well, then you have to do this,'" he said. "So I did the talent show at 14, and then I started doing comedy, like, for real, a year later." 

Appearing on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," Rife looked back on those early years, when his grandfather would drive him to a comedy club in Columbus, Ohio, each Wednesday so he could perform during the club's open mic night. "And it was a 'bringer' show," he told "Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon, explaining that each comedian who performed was expected to bring a set number of paying guests. Since his friends were too young to get in, it was up to his grandfather to handle the obligation by purchasing five tickets. "And then he would just watch me tank week after week after week," Rife added.

He spent years in Los Angeles struggling to break out as a comic

When he decided to pursue standup comedy professionally, Matt Rife left his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, for the bright lights of Los Angeles. Launching his career, however, was a slow and arduous slog. Interviewed on the "Dropouts" podcast, Rife looked back at the Sisyphus-like years he spent slogging his way through comedy clubs, and how dispirited he came to feel about his stalled career. "I've been in L.A. for 10 years, it was like, I couldn't get a special, I'm not getting regular spots at a lot of clubs," he said, admitting he began to doubt his own abilities. "After a while, you start to go, 'Dude, do I f***ing suck at comedy?'" he added.

During those difficult years, Rife also struggled with anxiety. In 2020, he shared a video on Facebook in which he opened up about a severe panic attack he'd recently suffered. "If you've never had a panic attack, it is the scariest thing I can possibly describe," Rife said. "It feels like you cannot breathe whatsoever ... It feels like you're having a heart attack ... It's the closest I've felt to feeling like I was going to die."

As Rife told his followers at the time, he was planning to undergo therapy in order to get to the root of what was causing his anxiety issues.

He had a short-lived (and 'miserable') stint on MTV

In 2015, Matt Rife began appearing on Nick Cannon's "Wild 'N Out." In 2017, he must have figured that he'd landed his big break when he was tapped to be one of the hosts of MTV's revival of "TRL," the once-popular countdown show that was originally titled "Total Request Live." 

Reviews were not kind. "MTV's New 'TRL' Is A Vapid, Obnoxious Mess," blared a headline from Stereogum, while The New York Times commented specifically about Rife. "Roughly once an episode, Mr. Rife blurts out an off-color remark that makes his co-hosts wince — talking about hot naked yoga to Noah Cyrus, who is 17, or joking about R. Kelly or Bill Cosby," read a line in the review. When it was all said and done, "TRL" did nothing for Rife's comedy career, although he was well paid for the brief gig. "It was a miserable experience," he said of his "TRL" days during an appearance on the "Unlicensed Therapy" podcast. "It was the first time I realized money didn't buy happiness."

After he cut ties with "TRL," Rife stuck around at MTV long enough to compete in the network's reality show "The Challenge: Champs vs. Stars." Spoiler alert: he did not emerge victorious at the end of the competition. Rife then went on to blend comedy with paranormal investigation for the online ghost-hunting series "Overnight," but this also did little to propel him to the next level of showbiz.

He's been on and off with Kate Beckinsale

Back in 2017, Matt Rife's relationship with an A-lister landed him in headlines. That wasn't because of his comedy, but due to reports that he was dating Kate Beckinsale, star of the "Underworld" film franchise. At the time, Rife was 21, while Beckinsale was in her mid-40s. In a 2017 report in Us Weekly, a source stated, "They went on a couple of fun dates. It fizzled out weeks ago." However, they were reportedly spotted together the following year. 

In 2019, when Beckinsale was dating a different younger comedian — "Saturday Night Live" star and relationship machine Pete Davidson — TMZ caught up with Rife and asked about his ex. "We dated for a year and it was ... complicated," Rife said, addressing Beckinsale's then-new romance with Davidson. "A lot of ups and downs, but she's moved on and I'm hoping they've both found — or are getting out of it what they want to get out of it."

Apparently, Rife's memories of Beckinsale were not fond ones. "Advice for Pete? Man to man? Run," Rife said when asked what advice he could offer Davidson. Rife later backtracked on that remark. "I told 'em to run because I was being a petty a**hole," Rife said in an interview with Elle. "I regret saying that. Pete, if you're out there, sorry I said that. Kate, I also apologize that I said that. I shouldn't have said that."

He competed in a TV comedy competition

In 2019, Matt Rife made the shift from cable TV to primetime network television when he was among the standups competing on "Bring the Funny," NBC's comedy-themed talent competition. He made an impression on the series' trio of judges — longtime "SNL" cast member Kenan Thompson, cookbook author/social media maven Chrissy Teigen, and comic Jeff Foxworthy. Rife was one of 12 to make it to the semifinals, with one of his more memorable moments taking place in a scripted bit in which he awkwardly and unsuccessfully tried to hit on Teigen, wife of singer John Legend.

Sadly, Rife didn't sail through it to the finals, where a $250,000 cash prize awaited at the finish line for the winner. Rife shared the news with his followers on social media. "Didn't make the vote," Rife wrote in a since-deleted tweet (as reported by The Columbus Dispatch). "Still watch tho. A lot of good performers left ... idk what America wants. But it's my birthday so imma go drown my liver BRB."

At the time, Rife was hopeful that the television exposure he'd receive from being on the show would bolster the size of his crowds when he went from town to town. "Luckily, this kind of show is perfect for propelling my touring," he told Meaww. "So, I mean, those audiences who are tuning to the show, if they like me, will wanna come see me on the road." 

One TikTok changed everything

Over the next few years, Matt Rife continued trying to make an impact in standup comedy, but didn't feel he was gaining much traction with his career. As Rife explained during an appearance on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," he'd hit a wall, and was seriously considering packing it in and quitting comedy. "I wasn't selling any tickets at any comedy club, I couldn't get any kind of break," Rife said. 

According to Rife, in early 2022 he decided to set aside his antipathy for social media and began posting clips from his standup performances on TikTok. Nothing changed, until the day that he posted one routine he'd dubbed "The Lazy Hero." That video unexpectedly went viral, racking up 30 million views within a few days. Before long, Rife had amassed millions of TikTok followers, comprising a massive fan base that he hadn't had before that.

"It's been unreal, my entire life has changed in a matter of 14 months, I'm so grateful," Rife said to Jimmy Fallon, referencing the massive number of tickets he'd sold for his ProbleMATTic World Tour, which reportedly caused Ticketmaster to go down. "Going from playing clubs for 35 people who got free tickets to, we broke Ticketmaster, which is insane," he mused.

He launched an acting career

While standup comedy remains his bread and butter, Matt Rife has also dabbled in acting. His varying roles have included the low-budget 2018 slasher flick "The Black Pumpkin," a bit part in the made-for-TV movie "Stalked by My Doctor: A Sleepwalker's Nightmare," and guest-starring roles in the cop-themed sitcom "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" and family comedy "Fresh Off the Boat."

He's also appeared in the 2021 thrillers "The Elevator" and "Death Link," and the 2021 comedy "Just Swipe." Rife made a big jump from supporting player to marquee star in February 2024 with the release of "The Private Eye," in which he starred as the indie film's titular P.I.

Interviewed by Deadline, Rife expressed his eagerness to do more acting in the future. "I love acting just as much, if not more than standup. I just haven't been doing it as long and I haven't been able to get my foot in the door as well as I have been with standup," he said. "But now that I have the freedom in success via standup, it opens up avenues in other areas that I am passionate about, like film and television, that I'm hoping I can make that transition over to ... So I'm really looking forward to the next project that I work on in acting to be something I'm really proud of and enjoy doing."

His debut Netflix comedy special was hit with backlash

After releasing a few self-produced comedy specials, Matt Rife inked a deal for his first-ever standup special for Netflix. Debuting in 2023, "Matt Rife: Natural Selection" was not only Rife's biggest special to date, it also generated more controversy than he'd ever received. At the beginning of his routine, noted Vulture, Rife joked about being greeted by a restaurant hostess who had a black eye. When a friend asked why she couldn't be moved into the kitchen where her injury wouldn't be seen, Rife replied, "Yeah, but I feel like if she could cook, she wouldn't have that black eye." After the crowd laughed uneasily, Rife told the audience the joke was intended to test the waters. "I figure if we start the show with domestic violence, the rest of the show should be smooth sailing," he explained. 

Rife was subsequently barraged with backlash on social media, and he issued a response via Instagram Stories. "If you've ever been offended by a joke I've told, here's a link to my official apology," he wrote in a post, which also included a link that read, "Tap to solve the issue." As Variety reported, the link directed Rife's followers to a website that sold helmets for those with special needs — which didn't so much quell the backlash as stoke it even further.

Further backlash after an online spat with a 6-year-old

The backlash over his mockery of domestic violence in "Natural Selection" hadn't even died down when Matt Rife was suddenly engulfed in a whole new controversy. This one began when a 6-year-old boy commented on a line in the standup special, in which Rife referred to the ring around Jupiter. "Actually, it's Saturn that has the rings. It has more [visible rings] also. And you're mean to girls," wrote the kid, as reported by Global News. Rife responded in a since-deleted Instagram message. "Jupiter also has [a] ring. OH!... and Santa [Claus] isn't real. Your mom buys you presents with the money she makes on OnlyFans. Good luck," he wrote. 

Interestingly, that wasn't the only time that Rife tussled with a kid. A few years earlier, Rife made a rude comment to a photo that 11-year-old Mason Ramsey — who sprang to fame due to a video in which he yodeled a Hank Williams tune in a Walmart — posted online, in which he posed with rapper Post Malone. "F***s on your forhead [sic]? Some gum?" wrote Rife (via UniLad), referring to a raised patch of skin above the kid's eyebrow. Ramsey's response was pure class. "It's a birthmark, not all of us are perfect," he tweeted.

That apparently humbled Rife, who responded, "You ARE perfect bro. Was genuinely curious lol I've got your new single on repeat little man. Keep doin big things."

He confirmed he's dating Jessica Lord

In addition to his dalliance with Kate Beckinsale, Matt Rife had a messy split from Brook Schofield  and reportedly had a brief romance with "Pretty Little Liars" alum Lucy Hale in early 2023. 

Later that year, Rife appeared on "Good Morning America" and revealed that he wasn't single. Reports soon emerged that the comedian was dating Jessica Lord, an actor whose credits include the TV series "The Next Step," "Party of Five," and "Ransom." In October, he confirmed that he and Lord were an item. "It's newer, but I mean I do prefer to keep it on the more private side," Rife told People. "Just because, I mean, people are literally insane," he added with a laugh. He credited Lord with insisting that he invest time in their relationship. "She forces me to take personal time, obviously, and I love that. Whenever she's like, 'Can we have tomorrow for ourselves?' I'm like, 'Thank you. I would love to have that.'"

During an interview with Esquire earlier that same year, Rife admitted that the explosion of his career had posed some difficulties in the romance department. "I kind of hate dating," he said. "I know I am just in my mid-to-late 20s, but still, I do want a wife and a family and a prominent home life that makes me feel comfortable, safe, and is my peace. But when I'm touring six days a week, 52 weeks out of the year, it's incredibly hard to maintain a relationship."

He fought back after a crude allegation

One unfortunate side effect of Matt Rife's rapid rise to fame has been the increase in people trash-talking him. That was the case in March 2024 when TikToker Nima Yamini posted a video on social media in which he made an explicit allegation about Rife. According to Yamini, he and Rife were once together in a meeting with a pair of high-powered Hollywood executives, who told the aspiring comics that they could guarantee their careers would take off if they performed sexual favors. Yamini claimed he immediately headed for the door, but went on to allege Rife took them up on the offer.

Rife was not amused, with TMZ reporting that he considered that allegation to constitute defamation, and was weighing his legal options. Yamini immediately backtracked, issuing a followup video to insist he was just kidding around, that the "parody video" was "satire." "I don't know Matt Rife, I never met him," Yamini stated. "But my silly joke shouldn't discredit him."

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