When some fans of Rick and Morty collectively lost their minds and demanded McDonald’s re-release its discontinued Szechuan dipping sauce, McDonald’s head chef Michael Haracz had a hard time recreating the recipe. “I was told there was a deep dark cabinet somewhere that had the recipe on it,” he told the show's host Catherine LeClair on McDonald’s new The Sauce podcast, created in partnership with Studio@Gizmodo and Onion Labs.
That, and other bizarre anecdotes fill the show’s three episodes, which purports to be a deep dive into the “riots” the lack of the sauce caused in early October last year. The show was bought and paid for by McDonald’s and sounds like a giant fast-food corporation interviewing itself about how sad it is. It never once says the words Rick and Morty, which is the reason anyone is talking about this damn sauce in the first place.
On October 7, 2017, Rick and Morty fans collectively lost their minds over packets of fast food condiments. Thanks to a joke in the show’s season three premiere, fast-food giant McDonald’s suddenly had hordes of angry nerds demanding it bring back an old sauce from a tie-in to a 1998 animated Disney movie. The corporation rushed production on a limited supply of sauce to select stores and, according to the podcast, watched with horror as fans camped in tents overnight and drove across national borders to taste a sugar syrup.
It was bizarre. McDonald’s didn’t have enough sauce to meet demand and Rick and Morty fans were upset. Employees called the cops, one manager hid from angry cartoon fans in her freezer, and one lucky entrepreneur sold a pack of the sauce on Ebay for $848. Some accused the fast-food giant of holding back sauce to drum up even more frenzied demand.
“We aren’t that smart,” McDonald’s senior VP for corporate relations Jano Cabrera said about such a scheme on The Sauce.
Why is there a McDonald’s produced podcast out now? Because the sauce is back today, in all the McDonald’s, for as long as people want it.
“I’ve devoted multiple weeks of my life to this and after embarking on this journey, I still have multiple questions,” LeClair said on the show. “What is the lesson here? Why did people riot? What are the limits of fandom?” Those are interesting questions that The Sauce isn’t interested in answering. It can’t even bring itself to name the cartoon instrumental in the marketing fiasco it’s trying to explain.
“I would never be upset at a super fan for any reason,” Cabrera said when LeClair asked her these questions. He paused often and chose his words carefully. The Sauce is an advertisement disguised as a history podcast. It’s a weird corporate mea-culpa where McDonald’s executives get to talk about how they didn’t see it coming and how the whole thing made them sad and frightened.
Which is stranger, but stranger still is the way The Sauce bends over backwards to avoid saying the words Rick and Morty. It’s like listening to the characters of Harry Potter avoid talking about Voldemort. I thought it would be impossible to tell the story of the Rick and Morty sauce riots without saying Rick and Morty, but McDonald’s pulled it off. It’s always “the show” and Dan Harmon is always “the creator.”
I reached out to McDonald’s to find out why it never said the words Rick and Morty, but it did not immediately respond to my request for comment. A powerful fast food company releasing a podcast to explain riots it caused while never once mentioning the name of the cartoon that inspired those riots is the perfect coda to the strange saga of the Szechuan sauce.