A Star Wars-Themed Protester Interrupted The Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Competition, Got Choked By Winner Joey Chestnut

Joey Chestnut winning 2022 Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest
(Image credit: ESPN)

By and large, spectators who attend the official Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest each year know what they're in for, and it usually doesn't extend much further than the name itself. But beyond all the men and women stuffing their faces with processed meat and water-soaked buns, this year’s event unfortunately also featured a surprise visitor by way of a protestor wearing a Darth Vader mask. Renowned binge-eating record-holder Joey Chestnut didn’t appear too disturbed, though, as he managed to take the guy down in the midst of his competition-winning run. 

In the midst of the ten-minute eating spree, animal rights activists targeted the Hot Dog Eating Contest, and took the stage with signs that stated “Expose Smithfield’s Deathstar.” But before anyone could hit up Google to see what in the world the group wanted to expose, Joey Chestnut proved he didn’t need the force to take down one protester in a Vader mask, as seen below:

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First and foremost, let’s all let out a big sigh of relief that this stage-bumrushing was a relatively peaceful one, and that no one appeared to be seriously injured by any of it. Obviously there have been some major issues regarding on-stage performers and presenters being more vulnerable than ever following Will Smith’s Oscars slap, as well as Dave Chappelle being tackled, and other recent disturbances. Not to mention widespread mass shootings putting many people on edge when it comes to large public gatherings.

In this case, the interrupters were part of the group Direct Action Everywhere, with a goal to bring attention to Smithfield Foods, the food manufacturer responsible for supplying the pork to Nathan’s for its hot dogs. But instead of just preaching awareness, the one protester should have been aware of his own surroundings when he bumped into Joey Chestnut as he was in the midst of eating his 18th hot dog.

With only a brief hesitation, during which you have to imagine a thousand different things fluttered through his mind, Joey Chestnut stopped his eating rhythm and took the dude down from behind with ease before security jumped in. That could have been a serious detriment to Chestnut had anyone else in the competition come anywhere close to matching his 63-dog total. That didn’t happen, though, as the second-place eater, Geoffrey Esper, finished 15.5 hot dogs behind Chestnut.

As for the three protesters — identified as Scott Gilbertson, Robert Yamada, and Josh Marxen by Sportskeeda — they were all soon taken into custody, according to TMZ, with charges pending at the time of that report. Perhaps not the best way to make their point known, considering more people will likely be talking about Joey Chestnut slamming Darth Vader than those discussing pork-based activism.

To be sure, not even that spontaneous surprise could take the spotlight away from Joey Chestnut in general, considering this was his 15th victory at Coney Island for the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, and his seventh win in a row. This year’s total didn’t come close to topping last year’s record-breaking 76 hot dogs, but he clearly didn’t need to go so high with it. Which is probably best, considering all the gross things that happen to his body after each competition.

Following last year’s feed cutting out in the midst of the competition, and this year’s event being hampered by activists, one can only wonder what will happen next year.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.