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Food by VICE

I Waited for McDonald's Szechuan Sauce and It Was Fine

Lots of 'Rick and Morty' fans were assholes this weekend, but New York's didn't destroy my faith in humanity.

by Beckett Mufson
Oct 9 2017, 6:22pm

Photos by Michael Marcelle, screenshot courtesy Adult Swim.

Police had to break up angry crowds at McDonald's restaurants this weekend after a stunt directed at fans of the Adult Swim show Rick and Morty turned into a massive PR debacle.

The fast-food chain re-released several thousand packets of Szechuan sauce, the subject of a running joke on the show, to promote its new Buttermilk Chicken Tenders. It hit the fan when supply was vastly outpaced by demand, leading to disgruntled crowds who had waited hours in line for a taste of the sauce. One location was surrounded by fans chanting, "We want the sauce," according to Twitter user Ian Sikes.

Rick and Morty creators Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon immediately distanced themselves from the situation. "FYI: We had nothing to do with this McDonald's stuff. Not happy w/how this was handled. Please be cool to the employees it's not their fault," Roiland tweeted.

On Reddit and Twitter, disappointed fans called for boycotting the burger chain. McDonald's apologized Sunday evening, promising enough sauce to satisfy, "any fan who's willing to do whatever it takes for Szechuan Sauce," this winter.

I expected the franchise nearest to the Javits Center, where New York City Comic Con was happening, to be the most chaotic Szechuan sauce outpost in the city. I went on Saturday and braced for the riotous fans like this guy, who jumped up onto a counter and squealed like a pig when informed his local establishment was out of the condiment.

What I found instead was a calm, if incredibly committed, group of Rick and Morty enthusiasts. Overflow from the Comic Con crowd were dressed as characters from Rick and Morty, Dragon Ball Z, The Legend of Zelda, and Star Wars. The woman who got the first packet of Szechuan sauce waited 12 hours for her prize.

The Seventh Ave and 39th Street location managed the madness by awarding bracelets to customers as they lined up for the sauce, which was to be released at 2 PM. If you didn't have a bracelet, you didn't get the sauce. A smiling manager, pictured below, personally handed each packet to the fans who waited longest. When the sauce ran out, she doled out posters and stickers until they were gone.

By the time I arrived at 1:30, the bracelets had been gone for hours. A very tall bouncer with scorpion gauges kept the peace at the door. He told me a limited release of McDonald's Big Mac sauce earlier this year had been far more chaotic. After that event, they had learned to use bracelets to mitigate the crowd.

There were no riots and no police. Szechuan sauce hopefuls lined up around the block hours after the last bracelets were given out. Most wouldn't believe me or a New York City regional PR agent when we said the sauce was gone. The few who trickled in to check if there was any left were deterred by a firm "no." I talked to a few kids who had driven down from Westchester to get in line , and they grumbled about how badly the promotion was handled. They crowded around anyone who got the sauce for a chance to take a selfie with the winner's spoils.

I spoke to the fans who waited since the wee hours to get their hands on Szechuan sauce about why they did it.

Connie, 19. Art student from Queens

Waited: 12 hours

VICE: What made you decide to come that early?
Connie: Bragging rights

Who are you bragging to?
The world. I don't need to brag to anyone but myself. But if the world sees it too, that would be nice.

Szechuan sauce is Rick's one-armed man, his season arc. What does it mean to you?
No more seasons! Rick and Morty canceled forever!

What would be too long for you to wait in line?
Nothing, probably. I'm in it to win it. The same thing happened at the Rick Mobile.

Rick and Morty: smart show or the smartest show?
[ Giggles.] The dumbest show.

Do you identify most as a Rick, a Morty, or a Jerry?
The humility in me wants to say Jerry, but honestly, Morty. I'm not good enough to be a Rick.

Marco, 34. Customer service representative from Long Island

Waited: 4.5 hours

VICE: What does Szechuan sauce mean to you?
Marco: That's actually pretty deep.

Take your time.
It's like an objective from a video game. I accomplished X by waiting for Y hours in line. It's a small victory.

What would have been too much time to wait?
I don't think there is too much time. If I didn't have to stop by the Javits Center first for a LEGO Brickheads lottery win, then I'd have come here right away.

The person at the front of the line waited 12 hours.
That's pretty cool.

Rick and Morty: smart show or the smartest show?
It's the Rickest show! And the Mortyest. And a smart show.

Do you think it's also a dumb show?
No! Because if it's dumb, then it wouldn't have viewers. It's smart enough to keep the viewers. It's smart enough to engage on a scientific level and a continuity level. It's got good storytelling, characters you love and hate.

Are you a Rick, a Morty, or a Jerry?
Ha, that's a loaded question. My friends would probably associate me mostly with Rick, just because I'm blunt, honest, and act like I don't have a care in the world.

What do you think the sauce will taste like?
I don't know, because I didn't try it in '98. And I'm not going to open it.


Related: Watch Munchies teach you to make your own chicken nuggets.


Nathaniel, Librarian

Waited: 2.5 hours

VICE: What does Szechuan sauce mean to you?
Nathaniel: If I get it, it's going to be a really kick-ass prop to make everyone else jealous. Like people in the fandom also dress up as Rick, but then I can pull out the sauce and say, "Oh, look who's got the sauce."

You're not going to eat it?
I might eat it at some point, but today is not that day.

What would be too much money to pay for Szechuan sauce?
I think the $4,500 or however much that guy on eBay sold it for was just ridiculous. Maybe I'd pay $20. I could swing that.

What do you get from going to fan events like this?
I'm a huge fan of the show, and it's this really cool thing to say, "Hey, I was one of those people who got it." I'm part of the story.

Rick and Morty: smart show or the smartest show?
Definitely in the top of the smartest.

Is it also a dumb show?
Uh, hell yeah! I mean, it's both—it's really both. Some of the humor is fart jokes, and some of it is really high-level stuff. Like there's a reference to A Wrinkle in Time, in the second to last episode, the ABCs of Beth—that's a pretty good reference right there.

This may seem like a redundant question, considering your costume, but do you identify as a Rick, a Morty, or a Jerry?
I wouldn't say I was exactly a Rick, a Morty, or a Jerry. I don't think anyone is a Rick, let's be honest. But. I do have an advanced degree. I'm leaning more that way. But no one is Rick.

Eva, 19. English major at Columbia

Waited: 4 hours

VICE: What does Szechuan sauce mean to you?
Eva: To be honest, I haven't actually seen Rick and Morty.

You waited in line for hours for a show you've never seen before?
Well, I was kind of sick of school, so I asked my cousin David, "Hey, could I crash at your house and get some real food?" And he was like, "Sure, but I'm waking up at 8 AM to get this sauce."

So maybe I should be interviewing you, David.

David, 14. Student from the Upper East Side

Waited: 4 hours

VICE: You waited in line for four hours. Why?
The obsession with Szechuan sauce! I've been watching Rick and Morty since it came out. The season three premiere where they featured Szechuan sauce was crazy and the whole world went insane for Szechuan sauce. As soon as I heard I had a chance to get my hands on some of the Szechuan sauce, I knew I had to get to McDonalds early just so I could get a taste of it.

What does Szechuan sauce mean to you?
Szechuan sauce is life. Szechuan sauce is love. Also—I'm hoping—it tastes delicious. And Mulan is a great movie.

How will you be changed by eating the sauce?
I feel like my life is just… [barely containing giggles] everything I've experienced thus far in my life is just leading up to this point.

Have you got anyone, in particular, you're going to brag to?
We invited lots of people to come over, but they didn't get here until later, thinking they would mooch off us. But McDonald's gave everybody who waited in line bracelets to make sure no one cut. They're sitting outside right now.

Rick and Morty: smart show or the smartest show?
Definitely the smartest show. It has a lot of hidden messages that you wouldn't get from just watching it through once. And Szechuan sauce.

Are you a Rick, a Morty, or a Jerry? Honestly, who are you closest to?
Jerry…? I feel like Jerry's a good option because I'm not a super genius. I would be totally fine with going on whatever adventures Rick has, unlike Morty. Jerry's just kind of there. He's fine. He's chill.

Jeff, 42. Sales

Waited: 2 hours

VICE: You're the last person in line with a bracelet, but there might not be enough left for you. What would it mean to you if you got the sauce?
Jeff: That it was worth the wait. I didn't think it was going to be this crazy. They're just little packets, so I thought McDonald's would be well-stocked. But I don't think they were. They only got like, 50 or something in.

For Rick, Szechuan sauce is his series arc. What is it to Jeff?
I would keep it sealed, and it would be a little hidden gem in my pantry. I would never eat it. I'd wait for the next production of it.

What would be too long to wait in line?
Probably two and a half hours [ laughs].

Rick and Morty: smart show or the smartest show?
For animation, the smartest show. It's a different take on comedy than The Simpsons, which is also classic. There are subtle layers of humor, mostly on adult levels. But even little kids could watch it, you know, if they have really bad parents I guess. But they'd catch something funny in it.

Do you think it's also a dumb show?
Of course. But it's a good mix. The burp and fart humor goes along with the emotional part of it, the family relationships. It touches on serious stuff, and then it touches on a guy turning himself into a pickle in order to avoid therapy.

Do you identify most as Rick, Morty, or Jerry?
Oh, God. I'd like to say Morty, but it's probably a cross between Jerry and Rick. Sometimes you feel smart; sometimes you don't feel so smart.

Sarah, 35. Blood lab worker from Kentucky

Waited: 90 minutes

VICE: What does Szechuan sauce mean to you?
Sarah: [ Rick voice] I, I gotta have it—gotta have it, Morty. I'll do anything. Ten—a hundred seasons! I gotta have that sauce!

How will you benefit from the sauce?
It will just be something new. I don't remember having it in the 90s. I just want to try it and see how good it really is.

So you would eat it if you got it?
Yes, for sure

How long would you wait in line for Szechuan sauce?
It's never too long.

Rick and Morty: smart show or the smartest show?
The smartest show. They have all these hidden jokes in there, and it's good sci-fi fun.

Is it also a dumb show?
Yes! Like when they had Morty shove those nuts up his butt!

Would you say you identify most as a Rick, a Morty, or a Jerry?
A Morty. I think I'm too sensitive to be Rick. But I do like science.

Do you think you're going to get the sauce?
No. But I'm waiting just in case.

Elizabeth, 40, and Ethan, 13, from Virginia

Waited: Ten to 15 minutes. The last people in line.

VICE: What brings you to this McDonald's?
Elizabeth: We came to New York for Comic Con, and while we were planning our stops, Ethan told me about the sauce being released. So being a good mom I'm going to stand here and suck it up.

Do you come to Comic Con every year?
Ethan: This is our first year.

What does Szechuan sauce mean to you, Ethan?
I originally knew it from the Mulan movie, and then I saw the Rick and Morty episode, and I was like, "I remember that." And then I waited for the campaigns [to bring back Szechuan sauce] to start, and I saw that start. I saw on YouTube that McDonald's sent Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon two gallons of Szechuan sauce. There have been a bunch of YouTubers saying they have Szechuan sauce and showing it off.

Why do you want it?
I wish I was born in the 90s. I'm a 90s kid at heart. I'm a little disappointed I didn't get that, but I have a chance to do that now. If I actually get the sauce, I would be really happy. I would put it on a pedestal in my bedroom, with lights.

Would you eat it?
It depends on how many I get.

Who would you brag about your Szechuan sauce to?
I'd post it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. My friend Henry, who is a fan of Rick and Morty. I told him about the Rick and Morty sauce and he was like, "Dude, I'm not waiting in line for that." So I'm going to post it on Facebook, and send a picture of it to him on Skype and text it to him.

Rick and Morty: smart show or the smartest show?
Smartest show. Definitely. Because it's got actual science behind it. They don't just make it up. And what I love about it is that it was originally based on Back to the Future. It has backstory to it. And one of the funniest jokes that recurs is that Rick has a box in his garage that says, "Time travel stuff." But they always make jokes that they're not going to do time travel to get over plot holes in the show.

Do you personally identify most as a Rick, a Morty, or a Jerry?
Rick. Because I'm outbursting, out bragging. I like to do whatever I want anytime I want. Just go forward with it.

Tagged:
Food
Adult Swim
cartoons
McDonald's
mulan
Szechuan sauce