The Stunning Transformation Of Comedian Matt Rife

The following article includes brief references to suicide.

Comedian Matt Rife is a social media sensation known for his conversational tone and crowd work. Clips of his audience interactions often go viral on TikTok, such as when he allowed about a dozen women to put leis around his neck during a show in Hawaii and quipped, "This feels like the final scene of 'Midsommar.'"

Thanks to Rife's popular Instagram account, we know he's aware that fans think he looks like "Oppenheimer" star Cillian Murphy and Handsome Squidward from "SpongeBob SquarePants." The comic also knows that his appearance is a big part of his appeal, hence the reason most of his audience is female. "They're not always the best stand-up comedy audience members. A lot of the time they like my face a lot more than my jokes, which is fine," Rife told Elite Daily. "It gets them in the door." He's also accrued the inevitable haters that come with fame, and some of his critics are convinced that his chiseled jawline is the result of plastic surgery. He denied this on the "Cancelled with Tana Mongeau" podcast in June 2023 and had something to say in response to the plastic surgeons who have claimed that they can tell he's had work done: "So, you're not only lying, but you're wrong at your job." Rife also noted it's a compliment that some people pay to look like him.

But before his big glow-up, Rife was just a kid from a small town in the Buckeye State with few creative outlets.

Matt Rife's grandfather helped raise him

Matt Rife grew up in North Lewisburg, Ohio, and he's described his childhood as pretty idyllic. "Everybody played outside, and [we lived in] an incredibly safe neighborhood," he told Columbus Underground. "It was a very carefree — irresponsible — but carefree place to grow up." However, his early life was marked by tragedy. During a "Bertcast" interview, Rife told host Bert Kreischer that he was just a year old when his dad died by suicide. His mom remarried a man with three daughters from a previous relationship, and the couple had another daughter. "My mom works in an Amazon warehouse and my stepdad is a car mechanic. We didn't really have a lot while growing up," Rife told Very Good Light in 2017.

Rife told Hola Aloha Magazine that he and his stepfather were never close, but Rife's grandfather, who was a World War II veteran and wickedly funny himself, loved spending time with his grandson. Rife stayed at his grandfather's place on the weekends, and during these visits, he got an early comedy education; one of their favorite activities to do together was watching funny movies. "He would have five or six new DVDs that he went to the store and picked out. And a lot of them were comedies, like Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, David Spade, Jim Carrey," Rife recalled. "Watching those films and being around him all the time, helped me develop the sense of humor I have now."

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Dane Cook made him want to be a comedian

If Matt Rife had never been inspired to leave his hometown, his job opportunities would have remained severely limited. "Where I'm from, you don't really have many options other than being a farmer or mechanic," he told Naluda Magazine. The comedian also had no interest in college, but his classmates saw some other options for him, voting him "class clown, most likely to join the circus, and most likely to go to jail," he revealed on "KCAL News." So, it's a good thing he discovered "Comedy Central Presents." 

The television series introduced him to some of the biggest comedians of that time period, and when fate intervened, he got to see one of them perform in person. "One day my mom won tickets on the radio to see Dane Cook at a nationwide arena in Ohio. We went, it was like nosebleed seats, it was terrible, but it was such an amazing experience that I was like, 'This is what I want to do,'" he told Hola Aloha Magazine.

Unfortunately, attempts to get laughs from his classmates often resulted in detention, Rife told Pop Culturalist. And while he was already discovering that he had a natural ability to make people smile, it would be a while before he became capable of making the ladies weak in the knees. "My entire high school experience was never getting girls," he said on "The Chocolate Sundaes Comedy Podcast." "I was never the good-looking guy, ever."

Matt Rife started doing stand-up at age 15

Matt Rife was a seventh grader when his first experiment with stand-up in front of a live audience came about in a serendipitous manner. "My friend Amanda, who sat next to me, asked for no reason, 'What do you wanna do when you grow up?' I said, 'I think I want to be a comedian,'" he recalled to 1883 Magazine. "Instantly, without missing a beat, my teacher comes in and is like, 'Hey, we're having a school talent show.'" 

On "The Chocolate Sundaes Comedy Podcast," Rife admitted to using some jokes he'd found on the internet when he decided to do a stand-up routine for the talent show, but the experience made him even more eager to pursue his dream.

At age 15, Rife discovered open mic nights and contacted the Funny Bone comedy club in Columbus to see if he could perform there even though he was underage. To his surprise, the owner was fine with it as long as a parent accompanied him. "I remember I thought I was going to s*** my pants, for sure," he told Columbus Underground of his first performance. But he started doing stand-up there weekly. "From there, I did my first-ever guest spot for D.L. Hughley," he said on "The Chocolate Sundaes Comedy Podcast." One of his Twitter exchanges with Hughley caught the attention of Atlanta comedy club owner Garrett Abdo, who invited Rife to perform at his club before he'd even finished high school, per The New York Times.

Ralphie May put a fake smile on his face

Before Matt Rife headed to Atlanta to start working at Garrett Abdo's club, he reached out to Ralphie May on Twitter to see if the comedian would let him do a guest spot. On "Bertcast," Rife said that May initially agreed. But when Rife started peppering him with questions — at the behest of his concerned mother — May thought he was still too green and backed out. "I was f***ing devastated," Rife said.

At least Rife had his Atlanta gig to keep him busy, telling "The Chocolate Sundaes Comedy Podcast" that he crashed on a friend's couch while he was there. Club owner Garrett Abdo became his manager and told The New York Times, "I Mr. Miyagi'd him." Part of this "Karate Kid"-inspired comedy education was Abdo making a lot of noise so Rife could become accustomed to rowdy comedy club crowds. "He threw tennis balls at me, too," said Rife.

A year after Rife first reached out to May, the seasoned comedian gave him another shot. But when Rife told May he was considering leaving Ohio for Los Angeles, May advised against it. "He was like, 'Don't go to L.A. until they're asking for you,'" Rife recalled. Rife did it, anyway, and May later invited him to tour with him. "Made just enough money to get my teeth done," Rife said on "Bertcast," describing his smile as "Ohio teeth" before he got veneers from Beverly Hills dentist Dr. Kourosh Maddahi. 

Matt Rife became the youngest Wild 'N Out star

On "The Chocolate Sundaes Comedy Podcast," Matt Rife revealed that he graduated high school early so that he could move to Los Angeles at age 17. While crashing on a pal's couch, he got some help from Ralphie May. "He used to take me to restaurants for lunch and he'd make me order six meals," Rife recalled on "Bertcast." "He was like, 'Eat one now, the rest you can take home with you.'"

It took just six months for Rife to get his big break; at age 19, he became the youngest cast member of the MTV sketch comedy show "Wild 'N Out." In a 2015 "This is 50" interview, Rife revealed he was eating at Domino's in Atlanta when he learned that he'd got the gig. "My life was at rock bottom," he quipped. Rife expressed his gratitude to the show's host and creator, Nick Cannon, for giving him such a monumental opportunity to further his comedy career.

Of how he got the chance to audition, Rife told "KCAL News," "I used to do a joke about [Cannon] that was god-awful when I was 15, 16 years old. But somehow, he had found that clip on YouTube." Rife appeared on "Wild 'N Out" from 2015 to 2017, and it led to other opportunities with MTV. In 2017, he competed on "The Challenge: Champs vs. Stars" and co-hosted the "TRL" revival, where he rubbed elbows with celebs including Sabrina Carpenter and Rita Ora.

Zendaya gave him the cold shoulder

In 2015, Matt Rife landed a small role in an episode of the Disney XD series "Gamer's Guide to Pretty Much Everything." He told Civilian magazine of the experience, "Disney gave me a chance to be in front of the camera and on set with little pressure. It was a gentle kind of ease into acting." He also got to meet a huge former Disney star that same year: Zendaya.

In an episode of "Wild 'N Out," Matt Rife made a move that some would consider bold and others would consider bone-headed. The show's cast members had been challenged to make Zendaya spit out the water in her mouth, and Rife decided to test his powers of seduction on the star. "You're mixed, I wanna be Black. Let's make a lifestyle movie," he said. This didn't work, so he proceeded to beg Zendaya for her number and reached out to place his hand on her chin. She reacted by turning her head away with a look of disgust on her face. He also got roasted by Karlous Miller, who had a suggestion for why Zendaya didn't want Rife to touch her: "He got acne, and his fingernails dirty."

When he appeared on the "No Chaser" podcast in 2019, Rife confessed to later sliding into the "Euphoria" star's DMs but said that he received no response. "I'm waiting to run into her as a man now," he stated.

Matt Rife's problematic tweets resurfaced

Matt Rife is no fan of the act of trying to cancel people when they're trying to be funny. "People do deserve to face consequences for a lot of really s***ty actions, but that all gets completely pushed to the wayside because somebody gets offended over a joke," he said on "Cancelled with Tana Mongeau." Some of his actions dragged him into the cancel culture discourse in 2016, but his behavior was no joke. Comedian Brandon Wardell unearthed tweets from 2011 and 2012 in which Rife used homophobic slurs multiple times, as well as a racial slur. Per Complex, the discovery made Rife's name a Twitter trend for hours.

Rife wasn't exactly apologetic when he addressed the controversy in 2017. Instead of expressing remorse over his actions, he complained about Wardell's behavior. "I was offended that this person was in the same industry and community as I am and lives locally around me," he told Very Good Light. He also defended himself against the accusations that he was racist, arguing that he had a roommate who was Black and had worked with Black people.

As for being homophobic, Rife said, "At 15 I maybe was. I lived in a small town of 4000 people. Now, living in L.A. some of my best friends are gay." He's also joked about wishing he was gay in stand-up bit shared on TikTok, describing himself as a "jealous ally" — but stereotyping gay men as fit and fashionable.

The comedian's brief romance with Kate Beckinsale

In a January 2017 interview with Naluda Magazine, Matt Rife confessed to having a crush on "Underworld" star Kate Beckinsale and expressed his desire to marry her someday. Five months later, ET published a photo of Rife passionately kissing Beckinsale — with his hand gripping her face and everything — and shared deets from a source who claimed that the pair were officially a couple. "Everyone in Kate's circle loves Matt and are so supportive of this relationship," said the insider. "He really is the sweetest guy and makes her so happy! Her entire family thinks he is the nicest and most lovely person." Beckinsale's family includes her daughter, Lily Sheen, who is just three years younger than Rife.

Another source told People that Beckinsale didn't give a hoot about her and Rife's 22-year age difference, saying, "She refers to him as an old soul." But soon after they were spotted together, Rife cracked an age-related joke in an Instagram post that he didn't leave up for long: "Age is just a number. Find someone you love, and take their breath away ... even if that means putting a kink in their oxygen tank cord."

By August 2017, Us Weekly was reporting that the couple had called it quits, citing an insider who said that Beckinsale was preoccupied with her career. However, she and Rife were photographed attending one of comedian Dave Chappelle's Los Angeles comedy shows in September 2018.

He flirted with Chrissy Teigen on a comedy competition

Matt Rife found a means to introduce himself to a new audience in 2019 when he appeared on NBC's comedy competition "Bring the Funny." It also presented him with a challenge: He had to substantially edit his material for the time allotted and dial down the raunchiness to make it palatable for a primetime audience. "That, at least to me, makes some of my material less funny," he told Columbus Monthly. "So I'm really competitive with the B version of my materials." He also deployed another tactic that had nothing to do with his comedic skills. The panel of judges consisted of "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" host Jeff Foxworthy, "Saturday Night Live" star Kenan Thompson, and model Chrissy Teigen. While Rife told Civilian magazine that Foxworthy was the judge he was most concerned about leaving a good impression on, he chose to flirt with Teigen.

Rife joked that the only reason he wouldn't call her after an overnight stay was because he would just be so engrossed with planning their wedding the next day. He also filmed a sketch with Teigen in which she shut him down, jokingly saying, "Matt, this has to stop. ... The talking, the concentrating on me, the flirting. It's too much." It also didn't take Rife all the way to the top, as he didn't make the finals. In a since-deleted tweet, he revealed that he learned the sad news on his birthday.

His Pete Davidson warning and acting pivot

The year 2019 was big for Matt Rife's comedy career. In addition to appearing on "Bring the Funny," he got to tour with his idol, Dane Cook. "Within 9 years, the same person who I saw performing, as well as tens of thousands of people, is now a very good friend of mine," Rife marveled to Civilian magazine. Cook was also just the man whose brain Rife needed to pick at the time. "I prefer and am more focused on acting," Rife told Crookes Magazine. "It's my primary passion and talent and I love it so much. I'm really working towards building a solid future and career based in that world." Cook has had some success doing this, with his acting credits including "My Best Friend's Girl" and "Good Luck Chuck."

Rife was starting to pop up more on television in 2019, guest-starring on "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" and appearing in the Lifetime movie "Stalked by My Doctor: A Sleepwalker's Nightmare." On the "No Chaser" podcast, he said he was thrilled to work with prolific actor Eric Roberts on the movie — and he also made sure to put it out there that he's an admirer of Eric's niece, Emma Roberts.

However, Rife also got some negative press that year when TMZ asked him about ex Kate Beckinsale's new relationship with Pete Davidson. He described his own relationship with Beckinsale as "complicated" and advised Davidson, "Run. ... Enjoy it while you can."

Matt Rife changed his opinion about social media

In 2020, Matt Rife started sporadically sharing videos on TikTok, something that was once against his principles. "I have a strong dislike for social media. I think it's horrible and it's one of the worst things to happen to humanity," he told 1883 Magazine. "... I always said I'd never have a TikTok because I thought it is so stupid." But he eventually began viewing it as a useful promotional tool, explaining to Elite Daily that his crowd work allows him to share unique content with his fans on social media without giving away his written material.

However, it took two years for Rife to go viral. He told The New York Times that the video that made him a TikTok star was one he described as "The Lazy Hero." In it, he roasted an audience member who complained about her ex. "He didn't do anything," she told Rife. But when asked whether her ex had a job, the woman said, "He worked in the ER." Rife quipped, "So, you broke up with a hero?" The clip quickly amassed tens of millions of views, and as of this writing, Rife now has over 16 million followers. 

Unfortunately, there is one big downside to Rife's TikTok success. He told Elite Daily that more of his audience members have started shouting at him in the middle of his sets because they want their interactions with him to wind up on his popular TikTok account.

OnlyFans approved of his self-funded special

In 2021, Matt Rife tweeted that he had launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for his first comedy special. He explained to The New York Times that he decided to name the special "Only Fans" because his admirers had made "Matt Rife Only Fans" a popular search term, obviously because they were hoping that he had an account on the OnlyFans website. Rife told CinemaBlend that his goal was at least $10,000, but he received over $17,000 from his generous fans.

OnlyFans presumably could have pursued legal action against Rife, and while chatting with Kaitlyn Bristowe on her "Off the Vine" podcast, he said that he did receive a communication from the website. "I thought for sure it was gonna be a cease and desist," Rife said. But it was actually a lovely message praising the comedian and expressing an interest in working with him. Rife agreed to create an OnlyFans account, where he posted a few shirtless pics.

During his "Only Fans" special, Rife made a claim that has become a big part of the internet lore surrounding him. "Puberty hit me so disrespectfully late," he said. "I was ugly as s*** for the first 22 years of my life. I was so ugly for so long." Numerous fans have since scrolled to the beginning of his Instagram account in 2012 and assured him that he was wrong about his appearance in the comments sections of his early posts. 

Matt Rife doesn't get the belt trick frenzy

On Valentine's Day in 2023, Matt Rife released his second comedy special "Matthew Steven Rife" on the website. He told Hola Aloha Magazine that he was planning on flying his grandfather to Austin for the taping of the special, where he would get to listen to Rife's material about him. But sadly, he died before the show. "When he passed away, I was in such a low place that I almost thought about not doing the special at all," Rife said. Instead, he decided to shift the focus of the material to be more about his relationship with the grandparent who had meant so much to him. Its title was also a tribute: "His name was Steven and my middle name is Steven. I was named after him, so it felt like the appropriate title for a special."

But for fans, one of the most memorable moments of the special was when Rife began removing his belt with one hand after warning women that their male besties want to be more than friends, no matter what they say otherwise. This made the crowd yell like "Magic Mike" extras shooting a stripping scene.

Rife said he was surprised that fans became so obsessed with the belt trick, spreading clips of it all over the internet. "I didn't even know that was a seductive thing to do," he said on the "Cancelled with Tana Mongeau" podcast. "... It doesn't look sexy to me."

His fans include Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher

Matt Rife's success opened up some incredible opportunities for him to work with people he admires. He got to perform at one of Dave Chappelle's comedy shows and hang out with him, telling The New York Times in July 2023, "We just smoked and talked for, like, four hours, and he gave me 30 years' worth of advice."

Some of the advice he could have used at the time was anything pertaining to launching a global tour. Rife was gearing up for his "ProbleMATTic World Tour," and he'd already received a little help from some other famous faces. By then, Rife had signed with CAA, which also represents Mila Kunis. This is how he learned that she's a member of his fan club. "I lost it. I was like, 'I can't believe she even knows who I am,'" Rife said on "Access." He also learned that Kunis' husband, Ashton Kutcher, likes his comedy, and the couple agreed to appear in a promotional video for the tour. This was a massive deal for Rife, who described the couple's series "That '70s Show" as his "comfort show."

In the promo, Kutcher plays a genie who refuses to grant Rife's wish for a date with Kunis, who is briefly conjured up before Kutcher makes her vanish. "I'm pretty sure she's not into problematic f***boys," Kutcher tells Rife. But the comedian's fans are very into him; his tour sold 600,000 tickets worldwide in just 48 hours.

Matt Rife was romantically linked to two actors

With great celebrity, comes great interest in your dating life. If a July 2023 Page Six is to be believed, Matt Rife had a relationship with Lucy Hale that no one caught wind of until after he and the "Pretty Little Liars" star broke up. Afterward, he reportedly started dating "Find Me in Paris" star Jessica Lord.

Many of Rife's jokes are about dating and relationships, but it seems that he's decided to start keeping his love life more private since he told TMZ that he would never date Kate Beckinsale again. He has, however, told Esquire that he dislikes dating. "I do want a wife and a family and a prominent home life that makes me feel comfortable, safe, and is my peace," he said, adding that his hectic schedule makes this dream difficult to achieve at this point in his life. There's no shortage of fans who want to date him, obvs, but he told E! News that he receives scores of DMs from "girls shooting their shot and missing wide left." His fans also freaked out after comedian Whitney Cummings got pregnant and jokingly tweeted about Rife being the father of her child. "My DMs have just been flooded with, 'Why not me!'" he said.

As for what he looks for in a woman, he probably disappointed more than a few fans when he said on the "Stiff Socks" podcast, "Blonde and curvy, probably. I love fake t**s, for sure."