talk hole

Talk Hole: My Coup Runneth Over

Talk Hole is the bi-weekly spoken column of New York’s alt-comedy darlings Eric Schwartau and Steven Phillips-Horst, offering their oracular powers of cultural analysis on all corners of the zeitgeist (high, low, top, bottom). From a call in Brooklyn, Schwartau and P-H (as Steven is lovingly referred) prove talk is chic and drop references to hot trends, hotter temperatures, and scalding political debates. This time around, Talk Hole rings in the coup year. 

ERIC SCHWARTAU: I’m making tea, but I’m also opening wine. 

STEVEN P-H: That’s very coup vibes. Trump’s getting impeached, but he’s also suspended from Twitter. We’re storming the Capitol, but not getting a retroactive stimulus. There’s a coup, but I’m launching a podcast. We’re all being productive—but also taking a step back.

SCHWARTAU: I’m glad we’re talking, because I’m actually really confused about where things are at.

P-H: Same. I’ve had brilliant soliloquies in my head all weekend about the psychosexual pathologies of reactionary conservatism and woke liberalism, and how they’ve formed a raft for the tinfoil-hatted, sadistic fervor of MAGAchella and a stark realignment of institutional allegiances across the political spectrum. And then today I had 18 pounds of iced coffee, drunk a bottle of champagne, and recorded a podcast, and now I don’t remember anything smart anymore.

SCHWARTAU: Congrats. Honestly, you should be so proud if just one person subscribes because I literally, like, couldn’t. But I tried, like, maybe twice.

P-H: The real coup is getting someone to subscribe to your podcast.

SCHWARTAU: I saw you post, and I was like, “Oh, I should do it now.” And then I went on Apple Podcasts and typed in “Celebrity Book Club” and I was like, “Oh, there’s a lot of celebrity book clubs.” I’m gonna try Spotify tomorrow. 

P-H: Sounds like you threw in the towel pretty fast. You never would’ve made it to Nancy Pelosi’s office.

SCHWARTAU: I think I would’ve gone back to the hotel around 3pm to lie down.

P-H: If I were MAGA, I’d still be looking for parking. So you didn’t even listen to my podcast trailer?

SCHWARTAU: I mean, you played it like three times for me in the car. Listen, I do love the podcast. I think it takes a lot of pressure off of me and our relationship, which is great.

P-H: Right. And now we don’t have to do a podcast.

SCHWARTAU: It’s nice to remember that we have lives outside of this column. We have lots of things going on. You have a podcast, I have, you know—[Holds up green notebook.]

P-H: I feel like Trump is probably experiencing something similar now that he’s finally off Twitter. He’s like, “Oh my god, these books I wanna read! My record collection! I’m getting back into vinyl!”

SCHWARTAU: He ordered a cute little notebook off Amazon to write things down in.

P-H: Support your local small Amazon delivery perxon.

SCHWARTAU: It felt good to buy it. Like, bad good.

P-H: What are you gonna put in that notebook? Poetry? New Year’s resolutions? Plans for the Biden administration to expand the surveillance state?

SCHWARTAU: Well, the first thing I wrote in it was: “Annoying guy at the plant store saying, ‘As a rule of thumb, any plant can be hung.’” It’s like, what rule of thumb are we talking about? How many thumbs are there?

P-H: I agree. We’ve only got two thumbs… there can’t be that many rules of them.

SCHWARTAU: I also wrote, “Truly inspired by Taylor’s authorship. I can’t believe I’ve never dug into her music.” I’ve suddenly discovered Reputation.

P-H: You’re having the sort of brain lapse we’re all attempting right now—like Pelosi impeaching with only 5-7 business days left in the game. It’s like, “Let’s just pretend none of this ever happened.” So in your own way, you’re just discovering Taylor Swift’s 2017 album Reputation, as if the past four years haven’t happened. 

SCHWARTAU: I agree that Taylor and the coup are related. We are searching for something right now. As a nation, we want to feel like things are real. We have to take at least some stuff seriously because, well, what else is there?

P-H: I agree. I think we’re so ensconced in our digital selves that we’ve lost the ability to parse fantasy from reality. Liberals have spent a lot of time prosecuting fantasy as if it were reality, and conservatives have spent a lot of time building an insane fantasy world that has no connection to reality. And we’re bored! People are so bored and sad. So this coup is a sort of fantasy MAGA chuds tried to make real because they live in a torrid feedback loop of big-tittied, gun-wielding, race-baiting Tomi Lahrens and finger-waving, Russia-hating Rachel Maddows who’ve convinced them that their identity, their masculinity, is threatened by “social justice.” By Moonlight winning an Oscar. By Kamala being president. Which it isn’t. And the irony is, Kamala is a cop who likely won’t be great for social justice at all. It’s cuckoo boots.

SCHWARTAU: Coup-coup boots.

P-H: Okay, so also, I know someone who almost coup’d. 

SCHWARTAU: I’m calling the FBI.

P-H: I’m not sure they wanna help. So my friend’s sister is married to this guy who’s kind of an angry, incel-ly Southern white guy from a conservative family, but he’s pretty boring. Voted for Hillary in 2016, then got 4Chan-pilled and voted Trump 2020. He told his wife he was going to, like, “visit his dad in South Georgia,” and then she found his Delta ticket to D.C.—just like, on the desktop. 

SCHWARTAU: I would have gone with a mobile boarding pass.

P-H: So she confronts him and convinces him not to coup. 

SCHWARTAU: Wow. She really said, “no coup for you.”

P-H: Apparently he still drove to the airport, but then had a change of coup and came home. But here’s the thing—he doesn’t even think Trump won. He’s not a conspiracy theorist. He said MAGA were “his people” and this is a culture war. This is someone who, up until 2016, was racist and sad in a way that was contained, but now feels so castrated by woke liberalism—so upset seeing Colin Kaepernick kneeling and Trader Joe’s called out for appropriating soy sauce—that he wants to go to battle. And what does the winner of this culture war get? To ensure there won’t be a second season of Bridgerton?

SCHWARTAU: Okay, this column’s New Year’s resolution is to not mention a Netflix show.

P-H: And what’s even more disconnected from reality is that these people’s freedom and security to go to Target and sit on their phones in parking lots and all the other indignities that make up American life are not threatened at all by Joe Biden being president. 

SCHWARTAU: I was just looking back at photos from 2016, when everyone started going out and protesting the fact that, like, Donald Trump won. Everyone just got out there, and it was the Women’s March but I was carrying a sign that said “GOLF SUCKS” in one hand and “LENA DUNHAM” in another. People want to feel like they’re part of something, even if they don’t know what it is they’re a part of.

P-H: I think most people’s signs were a little more explanatory than yours. I’m also bothered that we’re calling this non-coup “fascist violence,” but the mass shootings we used to have all the time aren’t? Because those seem a lot more fascist-y and violent than the coup to me.

SCHWARTAU: Well, I get that you’re disappointed with the penultimate episode of Insurrection on HBO, but the season finale is next week. 

P-H: I believe it was you who said nothing ever ends. Trump will be president forever. So will Hillary. But those shootings were all disaffected men, and that’s fascism. It’s psychosexual. It is a male, sadistic fantasy of domination. There are books about this. I’ve read pages of them.

SCHWARTAU: Sounds like Puerto Vallarta this winter. 

P-H: I don’t think I would get much reading done there.

SCHWARTAU: Seems like a good place to go if you get banned, though. 

P-H: Speaking of, I’m not really upset about Trump’s Twitter ban, from a free speech point of view. Discerning fantasy from reality also means discerning Twitter from real life. Getting kicked off Twitter is like when you’re at the sauna and you’re blowing too many guys and they’re like, “You need to take a timeout.” It’s good for the soul.

SCHWARTAU: Just wait until you get banned. 

P-H: For what, posting my flat ass to main?

SCHWARTAU: Yes, after Biden passes the THICC Act.

P-H: The issue I’m worried about is the word “terrorism” already being used to justify Patriot Act 2: Domestic Disturbance.

SCHWARTAU: Directed by Dr. Jill Biden.

P-H: So that’s what the “Dr.” stands for.

SCHWARTAU: I think there has been this eye-for-an-eye rhetoric that has increased in the past four years, but it’s unsustainable because if you’re just putting everyone on do-not-fly lists,  suddenly no one’s using their Delta SkyMiles card, and then Visa can’t start microloan programs for underprivileged influencers, and this country grinds to a halt. 

P-H: I’m not gonna lie, it is objectively funny to see a MAGA dad stuck at LaGuardia realizing he’s on the no-fly list and sobbing. But it will be less funny in 3 months when someone’s sad aunt in Maine gets waterboarded for posting a meme in her knitting group that says “Jill Biden has implants.” 

SCHWARTAU: I don’t know. Ultimately, the hill I’m not gonna die on—not Capitol Hill—is protecting random MAGA losers from being on do-not-fly lists. 

P-H: A) Everyone should be allowed to fly everywhere. B) The gleefulness with which we are now seeking to label people as terrorists can only result in further division. This is what the U.S. government has done to Muslims all across the world for the past two decades. How many have been tortured and abused or jailed indefinitely for no other crime than just being Muslim or, like, knowing someone who went to Morocco once? All that renditioning hasn’t stopped people from hating America, and it won’t stop aunts from hating Jill.

SCHWARTAU: I want to talk about the hill I really want to die on, which is Kamala’s Vogue cover. 

P-H: It was bad… in that it wasn’t that bad? It should’ve been worse.

SCHWARTAU: You know, it’s interesting because it’s that photographer who’s very hot right now, Tyler Mitchell. He’s doing this kind of style of having things not look cute. It’s an anti-aesthetic, you might say.

P-H: Sure. I get it. There’s something very post-Midland Agency about it—where it’s not just “sexy ugly” with good lighting but instead like, the whole thing is off.

SCHWARTAU: It’s more TikTok, like you’ve been putting on different outfits all day and clothes are all over the floor and now you’re standing in the kitchen eating peanut butter out of the jar in a giant ill-fitting blazer with no pants on and one smokey eye. And that’s when the real shoot starts.

P-H: Her expression seems very hesitant. That wasn’t giving me the unbridled confidence of a TikTok teen.

SCHWARTAU: When she would be photographed, Marilyn Monroe would take a red pen to the film negatives and she would X out the photos where she thought she looked bad so no one could ever use them, although I did see them in a giant coffee table book. Anyways, that’s what Kamala should’ve done. I just think, if your face looks bad…

P-H: It’s all about the face. I think Patrik Sandberg tweeted this, but apparently the younger Vogue staffers had pushed for the Converse cover, and Anna [Wintour] actually wanted—did you see the other image of her in the blue blazer? Anna had pushed for that to be the regular cover, and I think that’s what Kamala’s people wanted, too, because she does objectively look better in that photo. But the kids wanted the Chucks, to make her “alternative.”

SCHWARTAU: I mean, how much can a politician really inhabit some type of edgy contemporary aesthetic? It’s fun when an Elizabeth Warren-type gets tricked into wearing Vaquera, or whatever, but it’s probably not great for their political career.

P-H: I’d like to see Warren in Bode. That feels Cambridge-y to me.

SCHWARTAU: Ultimately, that photo was more of an aesthetic than a concept. 

P-H: I think the fabrics were supposed to represent, like, the White House interior decor fabrics. Like, oh this is royal regalia. But the new girl in town is coming in and she wears Chucks because she’s down-to-earth.

SCHWARTAU: I mean, she won’t be at the White House, she’s the Vice President. Where does she go?

P-H: The Vice President lives in the Naval Observatory, which is such a funny thing, because it’s like, so you’re observing the Navy? What are you doing over there? You’re watching ships.

SCHWARTAU: Sounds far from the subway. 

P-H: I guess I’m wondering what happened to basic aspirational fashion shoots. Couldn’t she just be glam and look good?

SCHWARTAU: She probably should have gone more Michelle Obama. Everyone’s always like, “Wow, Kamala is so gorgeous.” That’s power. 

P-H: But in a post-Trump world, the sanctity of politics is gone. I mean, the sanctity of Nancy Pelosi’s gorgeous podium was just besmirched. We can’t have the fantasy of a glamorous politician anymore. We know that the emperor has no clothes. You have to put the emperor in Converse and off-the-rack Michael Kors.

SCHWARTAU: I think AOC has some glam left in her. It may seem like she’s in her Reputation phase, but I actually don’t think she’s even released Red yet—besides the lipstick. She’s still Fearless era. 

P-H: That’s a really good point. Hopefully she has a lot of room to grow, because lately she’s been annoying as hell.

SCHWARTAU: I mean, she’s only been in Congress for like, two years.

P-H: I just felt like, when she tweeted the other day, [whispers] “I’m okay.”—

SCHWARTAU: Very Taylor. I’m sorry, I’ll stop. 

P-H: She’s making it all about herself. Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi’s poor podium is being dragged out and destroyed! The wood is chipping.

SCHWARTAU: So you want the podium to be like, “I’m okay,” instead? Wait, oh my god, that’s such a viral Twitter account.

P-H: @nancyspodium: “Where am I?”

SCHWARTAU: Poor girl’s probably in some backyard in West Virginia, sitting around a grease can fire, trying to look masc in front of her new captors.

P-H: We should rescue it when we go to Honcho next summer.

SCHWARTAU: That’s what our nation needs to heal. For someone to DJ atop Nancy’s rescued podium at a queer techno festival in the forest.

P-H: Which means we need a vaccine.

SCHWARTAU: I need a vaccine.

P-H: Can we talk about how fucking bullshit the, like, who’s getting the vaccine is?

SCHWARTAU: My therapist is getting it, and I was like, why does this feel like a personal attack?

P-H: Your friend on our Drag Race Zoom watch party is also a Zoom therapist, and he’s getting it, too. What the fuck?

SCHWARTAU: Look, I mean, they’ve made the sacrifice of not having a column.

P-H: If you’ve made the sacrifice to not seek fame and attention, then you deserve the vaccine. 

SCHWARTAU: I do think maybe there should be a vaccine round for micro-influencers. I think it could really help inspire others.

P-H: Micro-doses for micro-influencers.

SCHWARTAU: I’m just waiting for a vaccine subscription box.

P-H: I just saw a post from someone who got the vaccine, and they were like, “Um, everyone asking me why I got the vaccine has been a little invasive and you can actually just go to this government website and see if you’re eligible.” And it’s kind of like, well you posted about it. 

SCHWARTAU: They were just expecting heart emojis and congrats.

P-H: People should have gender reveal parties, except it’s a “face reveal” where you finally take off your mask.

SCHWARTAU: My vaccination shower will be really intimate, just close friends and family. Gifts encouraged.

P-H: I do want to discuss Drag Race

SCHWARTAU: Another thing that refuses to end.

P-H: And we’re eating it up because we’re so starved. It’s pathetic. It’s so drawn out now, and they’re pulling all these ruses we’re supposed to be surprised by, for hours on end? I guess The Bachelor has been doing this to straight people for 15 years, but it’s testing my patience like nothing else. 

SCHWARTAU: I like the fact that I have this community from my ongoing Zoom watch thing that’s lasted for many months. It’s not so much about whether Drag Race is good or bad at this point.

P-H: And this is why I think people have no aesthetic vocabulary anymore. It’s all about political affiliations—it’s about this community of like-minded queer folks getting together instead of actually consuming art that is good. Which is fine for Drag Race. I just can’t believe after I made fun of gays thinking the Viking coup guy was hot by tweeting that gays like to forgive baldness, someone said to me, “Why are you criticizing baldness?”

SCHWARTAU: Well, words matter, I don’t know if you’ve heard. But also actions matter, and sometimes those actions speak louder than those words that also matter.

P-H: So, what action do I take here… how do I show that bald lives matter?

SCHWARTAU: You might consider telling your own personal journey with baldness. If insecure bald folx only knew how many times you’ve stopped a photoshoot to adjust your “wig” or how ravenously jealous you get when you see my voluminous coif bouncing down Wyckoff, you could all heal together, as one nation, under bald.  

P-H: I’ve been on Propecia for 14 years. My pain is my own.

SCHWARTAU: I think it’s less that people don’t have the language, it’s just that language is so easily stripped from its context that it loses meaning. Like, your anti-baldness makes sense because I know you’re secretly bald, but someone can just screengrab you and be like, “This hairy guy doesn’t care about my bald life.”

P-H: Where’s the vaccine for being a dumbass?

SCHWARTAU: I wanted to mention Fran Lebowitz because she has a new doc. 

P-H: The level of connoisseurship!

SCHWARTAU: And she was an Interview Magazine columnist.

P-H: We are famously her spiritual successors. 

SCHWARTAU: I always say it takes two gay men to equal one woman.

P-H: So true. Sometimes you see a woman, but it’s actually two gay men in a trench coat.

SCHWARTAU: So to summarize the doc, Fran is kind of a grumpy old New Yorker just being like, “It’s too loud. But that’s why I live here—because I’m loud!” 

P-H: That’s so true. “It’s too loud” is also why I live here. We’re New Yorkers, we’re pissed about everything, but goddamnit, we wouldn’t have it any other way! Kate Berlant—whose new podcast I love, by the way— tweeted the other day, “When the vaccine hits, it’s gonna be hard to excuse not living in New York.” Which I get—this is the greatest city on earth, baby!—but I also take issue with. I’m not sure New York is that different from L.A. at this point. 

SCHWARTAU: I agree if that means we can stop talking about the differences between them.

P-H: But in the sense that post-vaccine we’ll see the era of the Great Gatsby ‘20s, then yes, New York is the obvious choice. But why not Nairobi? Why not Buenos Aires? These are cosmopolitan cities with lower costs of living and arguably hotter people.

SCHWARTAU: I’m not seeing a “When the vaccine hits, it’s gonna be hard to excuse not living in Buenos Aires” tweet really doing numbers.

P-H: Give it a year. 

SCHWARTAU: So, what’s your New Year’s resolution?

P-H: To moisturize my neck more.

SCHWARTAU: Oh, right, because that’s the new face.

P-H: Yes. The neck is the face, and that’s what we’ve forgotten. We’ve spent so much time in a selfie culture—the face, the face, the self, the self. We’ve forgotten that the face is actually an extension of the body. And your neck is sitting there, kind of like supporting the whole goddamn show and being neglected.

SCHWARTAU: There’s an order to things. We can’t go giving necks the same privileges as faces. 

P-H: And you see how old and crappy it looks compared to my upper face. So we need to balance that out.

SCHWARTAU: I’ve just gotten very used to seeing my Zoom face with my appearance touched up.

P-H: You use a filter?

SCHWARTAU: I feel like everyone who uses Zoom does. 

P-H: Where do we see that?

SCHWARTAU: It’s in backgrounds and filters, or something.

P-H: Oh wow, this is new. I do look really glossy. 

SCHWARTAU: Guess that neck cream can wait.

P-H: Okay, I’m keeping that on. I did just get a prescription for Retinol for my face, so talk to me in four months and my face might really be smooth, maybe even too smooth.

SCHWARTAU: Okay, talk soon. See you in the Biden administration!

P-H: Or the civil war. Whichever has better filters.