Last week, The Late Show With Stephen Colbert blew all of our minds by live-streaming a condiment station in the Quicken Loans Arena during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland for two hours. It seemed like a silly gag at first, but when the one guy started hoarding napkins and the other guy filled a water bottle with mustard, it transformed into something else entirely. This wasn’t just a bunch of old, white men putting ketchup on their hot dogs. It was high art. It was Shakespearean drama. It was layers upon layers of metaphors, with another metaphor buried in mustard underneath it all.
Now, because something that fascinating is worth doing more than once, The Late Show has planted another camera at a condiment station inside Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center for the Democratic National Convention. It’s the exact same joke as last time, and the live-stream was a lot shorter, but the themes are just as rich and the subtext is just as powerful. Interestingly, though, the star this time around isn’t the giant containers of ketchup and mustard, it’s an empty napkin dispenser.
We weren’t quite sure what any of the metaphors actually meant in the RNC stream, but this one is totally clear: The dispenser represents Bernie Sanders, and the lack of napkins symbolizes the lack of support he received from the Democratic National Committee in the primaries. Although, for that to work, there would have to be hordes of angry people on Twitter complaining about the lack of napkins in this one dispenser, even though the dispenser right over there is extremely qualified and has a much better chance at cleaning that orange stain off of your shirt. Or maybe the dispenser is the American people, and the lack of napkins is a metaphor for the way the primaries were rigged to prevent Sanders from winning even though he got way fewer votes…but again, there’s a perfectly good napkin dispenser over there, and that stain is just going to get bigger and bigger if you don’t clean it up with something.
We still might not have a handle on this, but there’s definitely some symbolism going on here. You can watch the non-live version of the DNC condiment cam below. (Spoiler alert: The napkins get refilled halfway through, which represents Sanders eventually coming around and endorsing Clinton.)