Pop-Culturalist Chats with Matt Rife
It’s rare that one discovers their calling at a young age, but that’s exactly what Matt Rife did. In middle school, he learned he could make people laugh with his stories and jokes, and by high school, he made the decision to pursue it professionally. He went on to perform with comedy greats including Dane Cook, Ralphie May, Finesse Mitchell, and Mike Epps, and became the youngest male regular at the world famous Laugh Factory. Talk about harnessing your talents and fulfilling your purpose, right? Plus, following in the footsteps of legends like Jim Carrey and Robin Williams, Matt Rife is making the transition to the small and silver screen. With several projects under his belt, including a co-hosting gig on MTV’s TRL, Matt proves he’s a triple-threat that can do more than just make people laugh. Pop-Culturalist spoke with Matt about his career, how he stays motivated in one of the toughest industries in the world, and how hard work really does pay off.
P-C: You got your big break on Wild ‘N Out. What was the biggest lesson you learned about yourself during your time on the show?
Matt: Good question! I’m not sure it’s a lesson, but I was able to experience what it was like to be on a proper set, around professionals, and learn what a real job in the entertainment industry felt like. I’ve done a few Disney shows in the past, but nothing quite like this.
P-C: Your journey to the show is a lesson of perseverance. How do you stay motivated in one of today’s toughest industries?
Matt: The love I have for what I get to do everyday keeps me motivated. As long as I love it, I’ll continue to do it.
P-C: When did you first come to the realization that you have this gift to make people laugh, and when did you make that decision that you wanted to pursue it professionally?
Matt: I would say probably around middle school. My family always made me do skits around the house whenever their friends would come over and I realized I might be funny. Plus, I was always the class clown. I got sent to detention a lot because I was always making my friends laugh. When I started doing stand-up in ninth grade, everything kind of snowballed rather quickly. Around eleventh grade, I made the decision to pursue a career in comedy, and that’s led into acting and television. It’s been a fantastic journey.
P-C: You’re now the cohost of the re-boot of MTV’s TRL. How did you get involved in this project?
Matt: That’s a really interesting story. I did three years of Wild ‘N Out, so I was already part of the MTV family. Over the summer, they were testing mini segments for the shows and things weren’t working out the way they were hoping. Five days before the first live filming, they called me and were like, “Hey. We’re structuring a bunch of things around you and we know it’s incredibly last minute notice, but we would love for you to come be a part of this.” It was very last minute, indeed, but very exciting.
P-C: The original series ended almost a decade ago. What changes have you guys made to modernize this show for today’s generation?
Matt: We’re trying to make this show incredibly relevant, especially with a younger fan base. The show operates at a quicker pace, and instead of boy bands, we have social media influencers. We’re still trying to get our bearings, so we’ve been testing a lot of different things, which has been exciting.
P-C: Has there been a guest that you’ve been star struck by, or one that you hope will make an appearance on the show?
Matt:: I would love for Chance the Rapper or Donald Glover to stop by the show. I absolutely idolize those two. They would be fantastic on the show. Someone we did have on the show already, who I thought was incredible—and who I’m a huge fan of—was Josh Gad. He was super cool and one of my favorite actors. He’s hilarious, and such a great guy. We vibed really well.
P-C: How much of an adjustment has it been for you? Normally you’re the one being interviewed, and now you’re doing the interviewing.
Matt: It’s interesting! As my career is growing, I want to pick up as many skills that can help me in the future. It never hurts to learn new things.
P-C: The show incorporates a lot of skits. Which has been your favorite?
Matt: It’s not one that I’ve been a part of, but I love, “Third Degree”, because I love to act, and it involves a bit of acting. It’s a segment that’s modeled after an investigation. We sit across from each other with a dim light hanging from above, and we interrogate them.
P-C: Do you have a dream role that you would love to star in as an actor?
Matt: That’s a great question! I would say a dream role for me would be something like Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool. I think that’s a fantastic character, and Ryan does it phenomenally. He can deliver serious lines and scenes, but also brings his brand of humor to everything he does.
P-C: Do you have like a genre that you would naturally gravitate towards, besides comedy?
Matt: Yeah, personally, I love dramas. A lot of comedians have been able to make that transition very well, like Jim Carrey or Robin Williams. Robin Williams was iconic in Good Will Hunting, and I hope to follow in their footsteps.
P-C: If you could star in another television show, what would it be, and why?
Matt: That’s so fun! I would love to star in Stranger Things. I absolutely love that show. Dacre Montgomery’s character is fantastic. I’m so jealous he got to play that character, but he’s incredibly talented and did a great job. I would love to play a sibling of Eleven.
P-C: If you could give a piece of advice to a young entertainer that’s trying to break into the industry, what would it be?
Matt: I’d say, make sure that you’re ready to work hard, don’t get discouraged, and always stay true to yourself.
Pop-Culturalist Speed Round
P-C: Guilty pleasure TV show?
Matt: Big Mouth on Netflix.
P-C: Guilty pleasure movie?
Matt: The Notebook
P-C: Favorite book?
Matt: Dreamcatcher by Stephen King
P-C: A favorite play or a musical?
P-C: Favorite social media platform?
P-C: A band or artist that fans would be surprised to learn is on your playlist?
Matt: Sam Cooke! I love Sam Cooke.
P-C: Hidden talent?
Matt: I’m a pretty open book, but boxing.
Get tickets to see Matt live at the Laugh Factory on December 7th and 8th.
Photo Credit: Ted Sun // Stylist: Victor Blanco // Groomer: Andrea Yocky