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Matt Rife: The Wild Card
November 17, 2017
Ever since actively pursuing an impressively young career in stand-up comedy during his teenage years, comedian, actor, and television personality, Matt Rife is now laughing his way toward success. Formerly a cast member on MTV’s Wild ‘N Out and currently the Host of TRL, the now twenty-two year old brings his well-crafted skills of humour and improvisation to create a lasting, favourable effect on the world at large. With his incomparable good looks and his gripping personality leading the way, Matt Rife reflects upon his past and takes full advantage of his current opportunities, as he looks ahead with unwavering focus toward his inevitably bright future.
What was it about acting and comedy that made you feel that this industry would be a proper fit for you?
Oh, that’s a great question. That’s really good. It’s usually, “Oh, where you from?”
I’d have to say [I had] almost nothing to lose. Coming from Ohio, my parents never really had a strong desire for me to go to university. There was no push in any direction, so the fact that this just kind of gelled with me from the beginning. I was getting shows, doing stand-up comedy almost immediately. People got what I was doing and things took off fairly easily and quickly. So, I feel like because there was no strenuous decision between this and something else and things were going well with this, it just made sense. I have the passion for it, the drive for it, and it’s going okay, so I feel that’s a big part of it.
What would you say was your first real big break in the entertainment business, that has helped you open doors for yourself a bit easier now?
I’d say Wild ‘N Out was my first big break. I was a huge fan of it growing up and when they were rebooting it, I actually auditioned the first time and they didn’t pick me. I was also seventeen and not nearly as ready as I was in the years to come. A couple years later, they were holding auditions again in Atlanta, Georgia where I was performing, doing shows. My manager was able to get me an audition. I went in, saw Nick (Cannon) and Nile Evans again. Nick was already a fan of mine through stand-up, because we knew who each other was in that world. I went in, auditioned, it went really well, and they called me a couple months later telling me they wanted to fly me to New York for workshops. It worked, man. I did three seasons of that. It was a lot of fun, because it’s a comedian-based show. A lot of the cast members on there I had already known for years just through stand-up. So, it was really cool working with my friends and the platform for that is incredible. Being on MTV – that’s like my age group. It’s the style of comedy that came very naturally to me, especially the urban market. It was just the perfect fit for me and it definitely gave everyone a chance to see what I can do.
You’re now a host on the revamped TRL on MTV. How do you and the show adapt to the times and stay relevant with this generation’s teenage mindset, without falling back on the show’s formula from the Carson Daly-era?
It’s tough, man. Obviously the times have changed dramatically. They still want the fan base to be young, but back then it was a lot more based on the boy band aspect versus now; it’s a lot more internet-driven and a little bit less about the music videos and the countdowns, which is unfortunate because a lot of people still want the music videos and believe me, we’re trying to work out the show still. But now, it’s a lot more social-media driven. A lot of our segments are associating social media influencers to the show, because not only is that what’s happening in my age range, but people are a lot more focused on those kids now, more than like boy bands and singers. We’re trying to really find our voice and find what this new TRL is. We are getting there slowly but surely, but it’s a process.
When you’re not entertaining people on-stage or on television, what do you enjoy doing during any spare time you may have?
I love fitness stuff. I love working out, playing sports. I have gotten really into boxing, which I’m doing later today. Big in the fitness world. Other than that, just hanging out with friends, watching movies, and hanging out with my pets. I love animals. Two big passions of mine [are] just staying active and hanging out with animals.
A lot of long-time, notable comedians have made their careers by pushing the envelope with discussing topics that are usually off-limits. Is there somewhere you draw the line, or do you think stand-up should be a safe spot to speak out freely?
Oh, I think stand-up should absolutely be a safe spot to speak out freely. I believe we live in a very, very sensitive time where people are very easily judged, but are still quick to judge others. People are very easily offended, yet awkwardly everyone is very accepted. It’s a weird mixture, but it makes everything very, very ‘touchy’. Anything that could possibly offend anyone is a dangerous topic now and I don’t think that should necessarily be the case, because all throughout history, there have been shitty times. There has always been police brutality, inequality, sexism, racism, all that kind of stuff. It’s always been around. You need to have those people who have the will and capability to find the humour in that and kind of find the light in the darkness. What’s the point of living in a terrible time when things aren’t going to change overnight and not being able to find at least a little bit of time to laugh at it? If I can find a way to put a funny spin on it and make a couple laugh, when they don’t want to, I think I’m doing the right thing, I think.
I have noticed on both your Instagram and Twitter that you have recently shown your support for LGBTQ rights, while speaking out very directly against racism and hate groups. Can you tell us about that?
I’m just a very outspoken person when it comes to something I believe in, whether that be a personal preference or standing up for others. There’s a lot of hate going on in the world and a lot of people don’t have the ‘balls’ to stand up for themselves, or even the platform to stand up for themselves. I do have a little power to have my message heard and I am not afraid to get in someone’s face and tell them what’s right and wrong. When it comes to things like the LGBT community or racism and stuff like that, a large amount of my friends happen to be gay, or black, or ‘ethnic’. Why not stick up for the people I love and care about?
I also noticed on your social media pages that you seem to be quite an admirer of cats. True story?
Yeah, kind of by default. Like I mentioned earlier, I really love animals. I’ve always had pets my entire life. I’ve always had dogs, though. When I moved to Los Angeles in my new apartment with my roommate, we both wanted to really get a pet. A dog was just going to be a little bit too much of a time [commitment] and our pet deposit was like a thousand dollars. We’re up-and-coming entertainers, so a thousand dollars can be quite a bit, sometimes. So, we wanted to kind of find a loophole, where we could have a pet secretly and cats make less noise than dogs. So, we got two kittens that we kind of keep a secret. Our landlord has no idea. Hopefully they don’t read this article.
Since Candid is heavily a menswear magazine, we must talk about your fashion. I often see you in cut-off t-shirts and bandanas, but I have also noticed that you clean up rather well. So, how would you describe your style choices and are there any trends or particular designers you like to wear most?
I consider myself a bit more of a streetwear kind of guy. I love like just classic casual jeans, nice sneakers, and a plain t-shirt is like my usual go-to look, but I do occasionally love to clean up. I love button-downs, nicer trousers, maybe some boots. Usually, I’m just a much more laid-back, casual dress kind of guy. Being from Ohio, I’m not well-cultured in the fashion community, so my fancy clothing would come from like Zara, H&M, Topman – stuff like that. With those, you can find some dope outfits and make those looks your own.
What in Matt’s world gives him the most passion and excitement in life?
I would say athletics and acting give Matt the most passion, excitement, and joy in his life.
With all the sexual harassment claims across Hollywood and now the world, how does the state of showbiz feel to you right now? And what are your thoughts about all of this? Is it about time these truths come out, or is it perhaps becoming too much of a witch hunt?
Great question, as well. This is a great interview [laughs]. It’s a tough time, man. I think people should absolutely be held accountable for their wrongdoings, especially in an industry like this when it’s so much relations and power-based. It’s disgusting to see people who have that power to make someone’s career and take advantage of someone, who really just wants to advance themselves as a professional. I do believe, at times, it’s very possible for this to turn into a witch hunt and people maybe exploit people who actually had bad things happen to them, to try to not necessarily get a leg-up, but maybe they could be hateful or revenge. That’s definitely very possible. So, you have to be careful as far as what you’re addressing.
Where do you hope to go from here? What are your dream projects?
I’m a lot more focused on film and television. That is my eventual goal. Stand-up is something that I have always done and it comes extremely natural to me and I have built enough of a career on it so far. So as long as I can continue to be me, stay relevant, and pump out funny material, I think it will almost always be there. Acting, I’ve just always had such a huge passion for. It’s only grown more and more, so I think that’s what I’m really wanting to move towards now.
If you could go back to the young teenage Matt just starting to pursue stand-up comedy and give him advice or perhaps a warning with everything you have experienced and learned up to now, what would you like to say to that Matt?
I would say work harder and be prepared for anything, because you’re going to get opportunities that you never would’ve dreamed of and you want to make sure you can capitalise on all of them. You’re impatient, you’re stubborn, and you want to get shit done, so do everything you can to make that possible.
Photographs of Matt Rife by Ted Sun, styling by Victor Blanco, grooming by Andrea Yocky.
Read Jeff Conway’s interview with Marcus Scribner here.
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