Thursday’s broadcast of The Game Awards ended in mass confusion, thanks to an incomprehensible stunt performed by a 15-year-old named Matan Even. When reached by phone on Friday (and with his parents’ permission), Even refused to break character and dodged questions about everything from his political leanings to the circumstances of his removal from the Game Awards stage. Nonetheless, this reporter can now confirm that no matter the original intent of his prank, Matan Even is unfortunately not that creative.
Even’s stunt began when FromSoftware’s Elden Ring developers left their seats to accept their award for 2022’s Game of the Year. When they reached the stage, viewers noticed a baby-faced boy standing at the back of the group. This was Even, who told Polygon he bought a regular ticket to the show and simply walked up from his seat in the audience alongside the award winners.
As soon as the developers ended their remarks, Even grabbed the mic and let loose a quick bit of absurdist nonsense: “I think I want to nominate this award to my Reform Orthodox rabbi Bill Clinton.” Security immediately escorted Even offstage, but by then, he had already claimed his 15 seconds of fame.
For what purpose, though? Was his statement an anti-Semitic dog whistle? Or was it simply a wasted opportunity to tell millions of viewers something else that mattered – or even something that might be funny to anyone other than six of his friends on Discord?
Talking to Polygon, Even repeatedly insisted that he had taken to the stage solely to promote the former president (and, according to Even’s schtick, secret rabbi) Bill Clinton. The Game Awards’ host Geoff Keighley tweeted last night that, following the escorting of Even offstage, the young interloper had been arrested. The Los Angeles Police Department told Polygon that although a police report was taken, “there is no arrest related to this incident.” Even declined to comment on the specifics of his detention, admitting only to having been escorted offstage by security guards.
Even’s public stunts started three years ago in the name of a far more sympathetic activist cause: China’s crackdown on Hong Kong. This particular cause has united Americans on both the right and left of the political spectrum, and Even achieved some brief bursts of viral fame by supporting it. In the fall of 2019, Even engaged in public pro-Hong Kong demonstrations at BlizzCon and at an NBA game. This resulted in invitations to appear on the far-right, conspiracy-spreading broadcast InfoWars, hosted by Owen Shroyer, who interviewed Even in 2019 and 2020.
In these earlier interviews, as well as in former videos on his personal YouTube channel, Even does not have the thick, unidentifiable accent that he displayed when speaking into the mic at The Game Awards and during his phone interview with Polygon.
When asked about his former views on Hong Kong, Even told Polygon: “I’m still a supporter of the ongoing movement. I have not talked about it in recent times. But, you know, I am still in support. I just did not think yesterday was the right time for me to talk about it again. And I thought that, you know, specifically, I did not expect any Hong Kong movement or anything at this event. But I was expecting – I thought there was an extremely high chance that Bill Clinton himself would get a personal invite, he would be sitting in the front row, maybe be nominated for at least as many awards as there are. And the fact that he was not even nominated, not won any of them – I was completely devastated.”
Even described himself as Jewish and repeatedly insisted that his statement about Bill Clinton was “not anti-Semitic” or associated with “far-right” politics. (Despite wearing a pair of Yeezy sneakers at last night’s event, Even told Polygon he believes Kanye West’s political views are “not good.”) Also, although Reform Jews and Orthodox Jews are distinct groups, and “Reform Orthodox” is not a thing, Even claimed he nonetheless saw Bill Clinton as embodying a “Reform Orthodox” ideology: “At the end of the day, [Reform and Orthodox] are both Jewish, and I think that, you know, secluding one group from the other would be maybe anti-Semitic. So I thought that calling Bill Clinton a Reform Orthodox rabbi would include all types of Jews out there.”
When asked about his own political leanings, Even insisted that the only future candidate he would vote for is Bill Clinton, although Even is currently too young to register to vote and Clinton cannot run for president again, having already served two terms from 1992 to 2000. “I just think that the best man, one of the best people in the world, who’s spreading very good Jewish values to Jews all over the world, in different countries, is Bill Clinton,” Even said. “And I think that, you know, we can look at him as somebody who should be running every government in the world.”
By the time we got to the end of an interview that would have given secondhand embarrassment even to Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat, for those not in on that joke), I began to quiz Even about his stances on various political issues.
Gay marriage? Even says he’s cool with it.
Immigration policies in the United States? “I think it depends on the person. You know, there’s a lot of different types of immigration for different types of people from different types of countries. And, you know, I’m not claiming to be somebody who is extremely knowledgeable. You know, I might have views on politics. But I think if we want to look at somebody who is very knowledgeable on politics, I think we should look at —”
At this point, we answered in unison: “Bill Clinton.” Naturally.
I asked Even whether he thought his words would have an impact on other people and their views, especially in light of the many anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that have circulated online, some of which involve Bill and Hillary Clinton. Each time I asked, Even insisted he had no regrets. Did he wish he’d said something different, championed some other cause, or even said something that other people might actually understand? No, said Even. He simply hoped more people would Google information about Bill Clinton after the Game Awards.
Why did I even bother to write up this interview, you ask? Well, because I think it actually does matter what you put out into the public, when you have others’ eyes on you, and I have that here at Polygon. At some point in the past, Matan Even may have thought this too, when he was making YouTube videos about police brutality in Hong Kong – or perhaps he was always doing it for the clout, and the only reason he abandoned pro-Hong Kong activism in favor of this new bullshit is that he never really had any cause other than his own desire for attention.
I don’t think it’s a bad thing to want attention, to want to be heard and loved and admired. I wanted that at age 15, and I’ll admit I still want it now. But the difference is that I actually give a shit about saying something that matters – or at least something clever. And this wasn’t that.
It was just a huge waste of time, and also, a statement that could lead to continued discrimination against Matan Even himself. I can only hope that someday, Even looks back on this moment and feels as embarrassed for himself as I felt on our phone call today, not only for wasting his time in the spotlight, but also, for the incredibly cringeworthy levels of self-owning he displayed — not just on stage, but in what appears to be a full day of phone calls with journalists baffled by an uncreative prank.