This Week In Discourse: Everybody Hates Matt
Also: Elon tells advertisers GFY, and we make it MORE
Everybody hates Matt Rife
Matt Rife is a comedian whose face looks like you asked an AI to create ‘Uncanny Valley Cillian Murphy but extra smug’. Everyone seems to hate him! Vox wrote up his controversial new Netflix special, as did TIME magazine. Other comedians are calling him out. He trended on Twitter for having beef with his plastic surgeon. He’s everywhere, all the sudden.
On the surface, he’s not actually very interesting. His schtick is the very tired and predictable you’re all so offended, watch me be edgy kind of material that hacks turn to when they don’t have better jokes. But what is notable is the model he used to get all this attention - TikTok. Rife is massive on TikTok, with more than 18 million followers. Much of the material there is crowd work, and you’ll see a lot of interactions with women thirsting over his looks. Rife is a genuine viral mega-star with staying power on TikTok, which makes the massively negative reception to his Netflix special puzzling - even his own fans seem to dislike it.
The special bombed for a few reasons. It’s easier to do crowd work in small shows, where most of Rife’s clips come from. You can’t turn crowd work into an hourlong special in a large theater, the format just doesn’t work. Netflix’s algorithm is also likely pushing his comedy on people who aren’t his core audience demo.
I find two things interesting here from a social media perspective. First: the TikTok-to-Netflix pipeline is just getting started. In some ways, entertainment is more democratic than it’s ever been. If you can get people to like you on social media, traditional media will come calling. Anybody can succeed. But second - viral fame doesn’t guarantee mainstream fame. Rife is massively popular on his home turf. But away from social media, he flopped hard in his hourlong special. It’s an essential truth of comedy that you can be edgy, offensive or not politically correct as long as the material is also genuinely funny. But beyond the complaints about Rife’s offensive material, most viewers just didn’t fine Rife funny whatsoever. He works on TikTok but not on Netflix. The internet-to-mainstream pipeline is still trying to figure out which stars crossover and which don’t, and so we’re still getting weird flops like Matt Rife.
Elon continues to set his website on fire
This is one of the most uncomfortable interview clips I’ve ever seen.
Look: I’ve never been good with cringe content. I have to turn away or pause the video when someone is embarrassing themselves painfully. Awkward silences kill me. And it took me like 10 tries to get through this. If you can’t stomach watching it, Elon is asked about advertiser boycotts in the wake of his anti-Semitic posts and explicitly tells advertisers to go fuck themselves.
He says it like a politician says an applause line, waits a beat for applause, and there is none. It’s excruciating. It very much feels like a line he practiced with his cadre of yes-men, who all gave him big belly laughs. He says it multiple times, for emphasis, and is still met with stony silence from the audience. He does an awkward little wave at Bob Iger, CEO of Disney and says ‘Hey Bob!’ (Disney is one of the companies to stop advertising on Twitter). He then straight up says that the advertiser boycott will kill the company.
And that’s not even including this golden moment:
Elon: And Jonathan, the only reason I’m here is because you are a friend. What was my speaking fee?
Andrew Ross Sorkin: First of all, I’m Andrew…
The man’s brain is decomposing before our eyes. Linda Yaccarino, last seen cheerfully posting how jazzed she is for sweater weather with dead eyes, has friends who are practically staging interventions for her at this point. Advertisers say they’re never coming back.
I’ve been emphasizing this is going to be a looooong downfall. Elon exists at a high enough level that he can fall for quite a while without hitting the ground, so we’re going to keep getting ‘Elon Did WHAT?’ headlines for the next year or two. Like this one - Elon tweeted a Pizzagate meme! Who knows what comes next.
Make it even more
A fun new trend: Taking an AI picture and continually telling the AI to make it more extreme. Take this spicy ramen…
More good examples here and here, but the best I’ve seen yet is this story on TikTok. I’d also love to know why every single one of these, whether it is becoming more and more spicy, silly, patriotic, muscular, or memey, always ends up in Galaxy Brain aesthetic.
The New York Times profiled Kick, the edgy streaming site trying to take on Twitch. I’ve written pessimistically about Kick before, because every large streamer on Kick originally grew their fame on another site. But one thing I missed in that piece - Kick may just be a loss leader for the gambling site that owns them, Stake. Stake may not care that Kick is a money-pit if it gets more people playing their online slots, which are essentially just a cash printer.
Google and Canada reach a deal on Canada’s link tax. The tax is an absurd piece of legislation that gets basic economic concepts backwards, and was totally unworkable from the start. Google, after threatening to quit the market, will now pay a small amount (for them) and ignore the larger law.
Why is every app now turning into a chat app? There’s a process in evolution known as carcinization, that describes how wildly different animals keep evolving into crabs. Yes, that’s a real thing. I think something similar is happening in social media, where every site is converging towards the same crab-like form: short vertical video, algorithmic feeds, chat/DM functionality, pro subscriptions and tipping creators.
China is forcing all social media users to display their real names, and some anonymous influencers are quitting in response.
The once proud magazine Sports Illustrated is now filled with AI-generated spam. It appears to be part of a larger ring of publishers who’ve resorted to the tactic, all connected to the same content mill/marketing agency.
Surprising no-one, Reddit is planning to IPO in 2024.
Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour is coming to streaming in December.
Substack is pivoting to video??? That’s… a choice?