Talking “Laissez-Faire Capitalist BS” with Talk Hole’s Steven Phillips-Horst and Eric Schwartau

By
Photography Annie Millman

Published September 17, 2019

 

Known collectively as Talk Hole, the queer “subversive underground art-jacent comedy brand,” New York alt-comedy darlings Eric Schwartau and Steven Phillips-Horst have the higher powers of cultural commentary to, say, go to the Nada Art Fair with Julio Torres and Jacqueline Novak and make it one big bit that doubles as performance art rivaling the art itself. Talk Hole is known for its incisive Twitter voice, as well as shows which crack at the more pretentious aspects of life under late-capitalism. Those include the 2018 MoMA PS1 “Annual New Uninfluencers Summit (ANUS)” and the New Museum-sponsored show “Gift Activated Public Experience (GAPE)”, which was performed inside none other than the Oculus—as well as regular comedy shows all over town that skew toward the absurd.

We thought it was only fitting to ask a duo who claims that “opinions are one of the most disgusting things to have” to reach into the “digital bucket” and unearth their most disgusting opinions—from the annals of corporate Manhattan, the Hudson Yards, no less. The pair posed outside the Shawarma Vessel and gave us their takes on everything from the Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich to bamboo (“laissez-faire capitalist BS that’s both aesthetically and morally out of tune.”)

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HINGE

STEVEN PHILLIPS-HORST: Hi, my name is Steven, six-foot-one, 150 pounds. I think that Hinge is sad. I’ve never seen it, or used it, or even know anyone who has used it. I associate it with Mayor Pete. It’s for someone who feels like they can achieve some sort of algorithm-based romantic connection. These people are too afraid to just go out, grab life by the horns, do a bunch of coke, meet someone hot at a party, and see what happens. And I think that’s one of the main problems right now in society.

ERIC SCHWARTAU: I was on a date recently where someone wanted to play “cocktail roulette,” where you just point at a cocktail on the menu. That’s the excitement level you get with a Hinge date, ultimately.

PHILLIPS-HORST:  I mean, what happened to imagination?

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HUDSON YARDS

SCHWARTAU: I went there to see the Vessel. I was in a relationship at that time, and I needed to come up with things to do to keep my boyfriend happy. We had a little time, so we went to Shake Shack, but they had shut down Shake Shack for a private Amazon event. I heard a woman come up after us, and she was just like, fuck Amazon. To me, that symbolizes the anger towards Hudson Yards.

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NAN GOLDIN

PHILLIPS-HORST: About 30 years ago, I was a freshman at NYU, and I was dating this British guy. Someone we knew said, “You guys look like a Nan Goldin photo.” I didn’t know what that meant. And so I Googled it. I was like, oh, cool. It means I look hot or something, right? Flash forward a decade later, another British friend of mine was working for Nan Goldin, and apparently she’s completely insane. I kind of thought that was charming. It’s cool that she has these connections to Britain.

SCHWARTAU: She’s in jail now. [Editor’s Note: She’s out now.] Quintessential bad girl. 

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TIKTOK

SCHWARTAU: Every TikTok is done in someone’s parents’ basement. I was recently in Colorado, and everywhere I went was a TikTok set basically. I have made a TikTok, I will say that. 12-year-olds spending 15 hours a day editing videos for this platform is insane to me.

PHILLIPS-HORST: That’s because you’re ascribing value to these traditional things that have value in your head. We are heading into a post-work economy, sweetheart. We need to have a reorganization of what we think of as value. And that isn’t even necessarily likes and followers. It can literally just be a chaotic joy that comes from creating a TikTok. The app is an accurate reflection of the Denver-ification of the country and where the future lies, which is in an unadorned beige wall with beige carpeting in a development somewhere in exurban America.

SCHWARTAU: Video editing gets me a lot closer to god. 

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THE POPEYE’S CHICKEN SANDWICH

SCHWARTAU:  I’d like to see a list of which presidential candidates have spoken to the issue of the Popeye’s chicken sandwich.

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HOT TOPIC

PHILLIPS-HORST: In the future, everyone is going to dress like they’re in The Hunger Games, and it’s all going to be about wearing an installed leather panel on your forehead. That will be the mainstream. The Gap will be insanely alt.

SCHWARTAU: I started flirting with a guy yesterday who I thought was gay because he had three earrings. There was something kind of Hot Topic-y about him. I learned that he was a skater. He played video games and loved comic books, and the window of gayness was slowly closing the more I talked to him.

PHILLIPS-HORST: I’m rock hard right now at this description. 

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STRAIGHT PRIDE 

PHILLIPS-HORST:  Remember the Women’s March? The women all left New York and they went to go march in D.C. And for this one day, all the women were missing, and it was this kind of playground for the men. I think in the same sense, if you had a straight pride, what does that leave? It leaves a playground for the gays. You could turn the whole city into Fire Island overnight, and I just love the idea of that—that utopian, hedonistic relief that might be facilitated.

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NEOLIBERALISM 

PHILLIPS-HORST: That word peaked about a couple months ago. I see a rebrand coming soon, in the same way that global warming became climate change.

SCHWARTAU: I think it’s going to start being called, by both its detractors and its supporters, something like … hold on. I’m thinking, I’m thinking … Socialism.

PHILLIPS-HORST: It will be this thing where everyone is just being like, another fucking socialist. Like, it will be part of the latest Brooklinen ad. We’re going to have to create a new word for what’s further left than socialism.

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MUKBANG

SCHWARTAU: I find watching people eat to be disgusting and think it probably shouldn’t happen at all.

PHILLIPS-HORST: People actually go to meals together because when you’re literally chewing, you don’t have to watch someone else chewing. It’s the one time when you don’t actually have to observe someone else’s disgusting mastication and the food mashing up in their mouths, and the sounds of it going down their gullet, and the hunger in their eyes. It’s vulgar. Have you ever been in a relationship and your partner just makes some sort of sad salad in the middle of the day, and they’re just sitting there eating, and you just hear the sound of the lettuce passing through their teeth, and it’s the most foul thing? No one should eat while others are not eating, and that includes video play as well.

SCHWARTAU: But in terms of their desire for attention, I find that very admirable.

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NORMAN FUCKING ROCKWELL!

SCHWARTAU: Honestly, I listened to it at midnight last night, and I photoshopped myself onto the cover. The level of Lana lobotomy that I am on is unprecedented. 

PHILLIPS-HORST: The slowness of her singing predicted the gay lobotomy phenomenon that we are now experiencing. I’m quite manic; I take a lot of Sudafed, so I need things that are just a little bit faster. That being said, I have listened to pretty much the whole new Taylor Swift album. And while I can’t remember any of the tracks, I liked it, I think.

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NORMANI

SCHWARTAU: Emphasis on woman, period.

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BAMBOO

PHILLIPS-HORST:  Bamboo is so over. We need a new word for over, to quote Carrie Bradshaw. The rate of growth of bamboo, which it’s often touted for, is so vulgarly capitalist. Growth for the sake of growth. We need an anti-growth movement, especially in this country, that places a different sort of value on what progress is and what it means to move forward. Bamboo is Milton Friedman—laissez-faire capitalist BS that’s both aesthetically and morally out of tune. 

SCHWARTAU: I think we’re seeing a return towards rare woods, mahoganies, teak, unsustainable options for 2020. 

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PEPPA PIG

PHILLIPS-HORST: I thought it was the British tabloids derogatorily referring to Pippa Middleton.

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LADY GAGA’s RUMORED SIXTH ALBUM 

PHILLIPS-HORST: I’ll say this about Lady Gaga, and I’ve said it before, and I’ll sing it until the fucking cows come home: I think “Born This Way” has been one of the most detrimental phrases to human society ever uttered in the past 15 years. I think it created this essentialist reading of sexuality that has forced people into their little camps. This idea that what we are is immutable and therefore, because we can’t change it, that we should be accepted for it, is really limiting. It lies in direct contrast to Lady Gaga’s fluid identity, and all of the different hats she’s wearing. She used to be this fucking maxi dress-wearing, flip-flop-wearing NYU student. And now she’s this crazy conceptual artiste. And it’s like, bitch, you weren’t born that way. You know what I mean?

SCHWARTAU: On the other hand, I will say that I think “Hair, Body, Face,” has been nothing but constructive to the LGBTQIA community.