Talk Hole is the bi-weekly spoken column of New York’s alt-comedy darlingsEric 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 gets existential doing Haribo gummies while discussing top-heavy outfits, Chris Evans’s dick, and the value and liability of childbirth.
ERIC SCHWARTAU: I don’t want to do this.
STEVEN P-H: You know what? Ruth Bader Ginsburg probably didn’t want to do her job either, but she kept going until the last possible second.
SCHWARTAU: I can’t imagine dying while still employed. Your last words are “Just circling back.” Tragic.
P-H: Say what you want about her jurisprudence, but you can’t say she didn’t hustle.
SCHWARTAU: Nevertheless, she hustled.
P-H: I think we can agree that lifetime appointments are a little random. Maybe cap it at 20 years? 10 even.
SCHWARTAU: Don’t politicize her death! Tyra’s done 24 seasons of America’s Next Top Model, and no one’s asking her to step down. So many landmark decisions… Roe v. Jade, Twiggy v. Ferguson…
P-H: I’m pretty sure she did step down.
SCHWARTAU: We need another strong female acronym on the bench. I’m thinking Biden nominates WAP, Trump goes for PSL.
P-H: My mom said this was “one of the worst things that’s happened in her lifetime.” Her lifetime. The woman has lived through Vietnam, 9/11, having a gay son—everything horrible you can imagine.
SCHWARTAU: Well, now we know where you get your penchant for histrionics.
P-H: Should we do our column?
SCHWARTAU: I’m just depressed and eating Haribo gummies. But I’m fine being vulnerable about the way I’m feeling. Our readers can relate, I’m sure.
P-H: To not wanting to read our column?
SCHWARTAU: To wanting to make salmon and instead just eating a box of graham crackers and buying gummies. It’s literally fall, I wore a sweater outside, yet I’m just all alone here in my gorgeous apartment.
P-H: I wore a sweater-tee today. We are currently in the two weeks a year where you can wear shorts and a long sleeve t-shirt, which is canonically the best outfit.
SCHWARTAU: Legs can handle quite a bit of cold. I’ve always felt like people are a little preemptive with pants.
P-H: The leg is a utilitarian object, so most people think, “Oh, just cover it up. Let the arms do the talking. Let the neck do the seducing.” But in reality, if you just show legs and cover up everything else, then you create this really top-heavy frame that’s quite imposing—which is sexy.
SCHWARTAU: Well, I famously have a bottom-heavy frame.
P-H: In fact, if you’re wearing a sweatshirt and shorts, you look like a top. Tank top and pants—you’re a bottom. It’s about where the energy gets drawn to. Where is all the fabric collecting? Top half or bottom half? The first time I met my ex, he was wearing shorts and a sweatshirt in fall, and I thought… top.
SCHWARTAU: But you were wrong.
P-H: Half wrong.
SCHWARTAU: But that’s also very West Coast casual. And I think the ex you’re referring to is from the West Coast.
P-H: Well, they sorta have to just invent seasons out West, so they have these slightly schizophrenic outfits.
SCHWARTAU: And personalities.
P-H: Should we talk about some topics? Specifically, childbirth. Do we stan? Pasty pundit Matt Yglesisas has a new book out called One Billion Americans, where he says we should fight China by having more kids, and I just thought… hmm. I don’t think we really need to be number one in everything.
SCHWARTAU: Imagine how many roommates everyone will have. Nightmare.
P-H: Do you want kids? Do we have a responsibility to have them? Birth rates are declining among upper middle class college-educated folk, which means all the new babies are evangelical Kaleighs.
SCHWARTAU: People want kids just so they’ll go into the family business or emulate them in other ways.
P-H: You also want your kids to take care of you when you can’t wash your hole.
SCHWARTAU: But the trajectory of child rearing in America sets kids on this course to be psycho individualistic freaks. There’s too much information available to them and they become self-aware too fast—they’re leaving home, moving into TikTok houses, and only coming home to make you do humiliating dance videos.
P-H: But the bigger issue is upper middle class/urban aspirant people aren’t willing to sacrifice their lifestyle. They think, if I have kids, I should still be able to keep my openings, my Floyd sofas, my trips to Hudson, my reservation at Kiki’s, my open-plan, open-face, coke-fueled rooftop patio kickback cake and eat it, too. So they wait to have kids until they’ve not only ordered the Floyd, but called their dealer. And that, I think, is unrealistic.
SCHWARTAU: Kids at parties take attention away from me, which is an issue.
P-H: “Huxson looks so cute in his Travis Scott hoodie!” says the hot guy ignoring you at the Vitamin Water/Marriott activation.
SCHWARTAU: Ultimately, you need to ask yourself, are kids an asset or a liability? Hundreds of years ago, kids were assets because they worked on the farm and made money. Now, kids are liabilities. They waste $200k of your cash on higher education just to come home and use the word postmodernism, and you never see a cent.
P-H: But it’s not just farms. In impoverished families, it might be good to have more kids because they can be getting money in the streets, selling shit, etc.
SCHWARTAU: The Kardashian kids are an asset. And there are a lot of them.
P-H: On the extreme ends of the spectrum, kids are an asset. In the middle, they’re a liability. Then again, Hunter Biden seems like a liability, and the Bidens have quite a bit of cash. You need to make a decision, here. Kids—yes or no?
SCHWARTAU: My family would cry and jump for joy. I think they’re tired of my dilettanterie and would kill for grandkids. I’ve been “finding myself” in the city for ages.
P-H: We’re all on Rumspringa.
SCHWARTAU: But I also think maybe that straight people are just on a very specific trajectory and don’t do as much soul-searching as we do. They’re looking for the mother or father of their future kids and that’s that.
P-H: Whereas gay people are always looking for a gym.
SCHWARTAU: I do feel that having a kid is a lifelong endeavor that would bring both immense joy and anxiety. And I’m thinking, well, what exactly is the next step for me, spiritually? I’m just going to Fire Island for the next 30 years? I don’t know.
P-H: I’m guessing kids can’t go there.
SCHWARTAU: Again, they kind of ruin the party.
P-H: What if they had that daycare they had at The Wing for kids called the Little Wing, but for Fire Island? You could call it the Little Meat Rack.
SCHWARTAU: “Wait here, Huxson, your dad has to get to a sex party.”
P-H: The dads can cruise and the kids can do whatever the nonsexual version of cruising is. The other advantage of having a kid is that a kid can’t be canceled. Although we’re seeing younger and younger people getting canceled now.
SCHWARTAU: We’re canceling that kid on that local news segment who said the flu kills more people than coronavirus. Now I’m thinking about that French movie Cuties that Ted Cruz and Tulsi [Gabbard] are freaking out about, saying it’s too graphic and exploiting girls. There’s an interesting juxtaposition where often the same people saying we need to protect our kids are saying we need to have more kids. If they’re so hard to protect, then why are you suggesting we blast them out with abandon?
P-H: Well, Tulsi is pro-birth because she is in a cult.
SCHWARTAU: I think that if you’re freaking out about the sexualization of 11-year-olds, you need to look at your own desires.
P-H: “This movie is sexualizing kids!” screams the man hastily covering his boner with a newspaper. It’s like Jerry Falwell Jr. having that three-way affair with the poolboy. The most frothily homophobic religious conservatives are always the ones getting pegged by a twink.
SCHWARTAU: Poolboy is very trad values for an affair though. Could they be anymore cliché?
P-H: But what’s interesting about Cuties is—and I didn’t watch the movie so I feel confident giving an opinion—the two marketing campaigns are incredibly representative of French versus American aesthetics. The French version is very Palme d’Or: an artful shot of girls running in the street, and it’s got all the award-winning laurel wreaths so you know it’s classy. But the American Netflix poster is so slutty—all these tweens gussied up in leotards biting their lips with no award wreaths, and CUTIES in big fat sans serif. It looks like Dance Moms.
SCHWARTAU: I feel like the marketing team did not watch the movie either.
P-H: Maybe I was on the team?
SCHWARTAU: My friend and I fast-forwarded through it trying to determine if it was inappropriate or not.
P-H: Which is the same way most people watch porn. We’re basically all becoming algorithms to detect nudity, which is so dark. I even do the same thing with books. I’ll pick up a Bret Easton Ellis book and scan for the word “cock.” Sex scenes in books are always either 33 or 66 percent of the way through—and then you just look for descriptive anatomy words.
SCHWARTAU: Ultimately, we are crafting our own narratives, whether they’re true or not. Life is like a little horny scavenger hunt. It also reminds me of alternate reality games, and fake things like QAnon, where you search all over the internet for little validations of what you think is true and hot.
P-H: What are you talking about?
SCHWARTAU: I’m talking about transmedia storytelling and porn.
SCHWARTAU: She’s obsessed with getting canceled. What’s her deal?
P-H: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I think British women are threatened by trans women because British women are not that hot. They’re sort of bony shouldered, brittle jawed, thin-lipped ladies. They tend to not age that well. The idea that anyone can be a woman kind of threatens their whole underwhelming performance of the female idea. They worry the only thing they’ve got going for them is that they’re cis.
SCHWARTAU: Maybe, but I’m also now thinking of Jerry Hall. I thought she was the most beautiful older woman ever when she had that show Kept on VH1. Not all British women.
P-H: No, no, no, no, no, no. Not by any means! Britain has made stunners. But if you look at some of the classically bodacious countries—Brazil, Italy, and of course Armenia, who produce the Barbies of today—I don’t think they’re as TERF-y as the Brits.
SCHWARTAU: I also think everyone is so disappointed because Harry Potter was about the suspension of disbelief. It was a magical world where anything could happen, and then the author decides to come down hard on the side of MEN ARE MEN, WOMEN ARE WOMEN. Had she had written a different book, it wouldn’t have been as big a deal.
P-H: Like, if she had written the Bible.
SCHWARTAU: Or A Million Little Pieces.
P-H: There’s just something very off about this Victorian fear of losing what it means to be a woman—especially because society is more femme than ever. It’s the wrong thing to be mourning its loss. We are not losing it at all.
SCHWARTAU: I think the fear goes back to childbirth. Conservatives want to preserve their race, their lifestyle, their women. If everyone’s going trans, who’s going to be popping out five babies?
P-H: So maybe our opinion, then, is that childbirth is bad because it’s just some narcissistic project to create a miniature version of yourself?
SCHWARTAU: I don’t think it really is, like, good or bad. You can have a kid and fight for a utopian future for them. Or you can have a kid as an ego-builder to propagate your legacy and evil capitalist practices. It can go either way. Or, you know, we could just live without them and all decide to stop having kids for 5-10 years. A welcome respite.
P-H: You’re really refusing to make a decision today.
SCHWARTAU: I feel like this weed gummy is making me existential.
P-H: You said that was a regular gummy!
SCHWARTAU: Well, I ate a regular gummy and weed.
P-H: Okay, I was asked my pronouns this week, and I got so uncomfortable. “Uhhh, he/him!” Ironic, because I love talking about myself.
SCHWARTAU: I was mortified when I was first asked to do it. I felt like I was being asked to say top or bottom.
P-H: This happened while I was on vacation in greater Scranton—which, by the way, is not Biden country; I saw nothing but Trump signs—and I just thought… well, now that I’m He/Him can I not be called “girl?” Can I not call my lesbian friend “king” on the motorboat? Am I locked into this incredibly serious identity? It’s the seriousness for me.
SCHWARTAU: I feel like I’m supposed to say “he/him” in a deeper voice. Or like I’ve entered the communal showers in the men’s locker room after basketball practice.
P-H: Pretending not to look vibes. It’s also always in these very structured situations. The Twitter Bio. The Zoom intro. The email signature.
SCHWARTAU: The default pronoun should just be they/them. Then we could start pronoun disarmament. Because having your pronouns in your email signature feels very institutionalized and like some sort of corporate legal protection against lawsuits.
P-H: We’re all walking disclaimers.
SCHWARTAU: “They/them” feels enlightening. It’s taking control of the narrative. It also suggests that people will be referring to you, which is empowering. Well, I’ve basically convinced myself to go non-bine during our discussion. The only way out is through, as they say. But I’m just kind of questioning everything right now, which is… not a bad thing to be doing.
P-H: Question everything, deny nothing. Or wait, deny everything?
SCHWARTAU: Deny Harry Potter.
P-H: Okay, next topic. Wildfires: are they good or bad? Are you pro- or anti-wildfire?
P-H: I’m anti when they’re started by gender reveals, but I’m pro when they’re started by young struggling gay creatives for the sake of art. The wildfires on the West Coast also buttress our existing theory that Toronto is the future.
SCHWARTAU: The wildfires can’t cross the border due to COVID. Okay, I’ve been thinking this whole time that you look kind of distracted, and the lighting makes it look like you’re in front of a pizza oven. You look like you work at Domino’s.
P-H: With my mullet?
SCHWARTAU: I really want Domino’s right now. Do you have an issue? Is there something you want to say to me?
P-H: No, I feel like we’re literally having a regular conversation. I’m not distracted at all. I don’t have an issue. I’m just not looking directly into your face because I’m sitting sideways on my Joybird.
SCHWARTAU: Usually this kind of dialogue would get cut by our editor. It’s very podcast to not edit out interstitial dialogue.
P-H: It’s insane. It’s this group of she-bosses who don’t so much Marie Kondo your house as psychotically Container Store it. They organize all your books in rainbow formation, hang your Missoni dresses in order of “drapeyness” and put all your individual 130 calorie per pack cricket seed chips in plastic bins labeled “grab-n-go.” It’s a frenetic parody of American consumerism—this sort of product worship. It’s like, “Don’t get rid of stuff because it’ll make your life lighter and more free. Get rid of stuff so you can make room for more stuff.”
SCHWARTAU: Marie Kondo found dead in her kondo.
P-H: Each episode has one celeb and one “regular family.” In the normie half, they just put all their shit in bins, and then the family cries at the sight of their slightly less cluttered garage.
SCHWARTAU: I think people get very emotional about their homes because everyone goes into $600,000 worth of debt to buy one.
P-H: In the garage family, they found multiple boxes of pet ashes—so at the reveal, the she-bosses go “we decided to create a special place to honor your deceased family.” And it was just a plastic bin from the Container Store labeled “In Memoriam.”
SCHWARTAU: Your ancestors become clutter in your garage.
P-H: Labeled clutter. It’s like, so the difference between honoring your dead pets and not honoring them is just putting on a label that says “dead pets”? Do Americans have any spiritual intelligence?
SCHWARTAU: Didn’t homes used to have mausoleums for their ancestors in the backyard?
P-H: I don’t think you’re supposed to do that.
SCHWARTAU: I’m thinking Kim and Kanye might have a crypt in their house.
P-H: Their house is quite crypt-like. I could see them doing a crypt.
SCHWARTAU: I guess you can’t do stuff like that if a house isn’t passed down through generations anymore. It’s flipped after six months of backsplash reno. What’s going to happen to our bodies? Do we have plots picked out? Or are we getting demo-ed and thrown in a dumpster with the laminate countertops?
P-H: I want my burial site to be in the middle of nowhere. Maybe Montana. Some place that has no meaning to me at all whatsoever, but it’s just an interesting surprise that could become a tourist attraction.
SCHWARTAU: Oh, like a little shrine in the hills? When I was in Italy, I happened upon a saint’s shrine tucked away in the hillside. Very remote, very exclusive.
P-H: My followers could visit and stimulate the local economy. Nearby, a farm-to-table restaurant opens up that ends up getting two Michelin stars, and it becomes this sort of destination.
SCHWARTAU: I’ll be buried at the tomb of the forgotten columnists. Actually, no. Throw me in with the podcasters.
P-H: The other day I was talking to Natasha Stagg, and she referred to New York as a “city of columns” because she also has a column.
SCHWARTAU: Well, that’s so interesting because a column is vertical, like a building.
P-H: And cities are known as vertical playgrounds.
SCHWARTAU: Podcasts are more like an Amazon warehouse. Long and full of stuff you don’t care about.
P-H: Speaking of warehouses, what is your discourse around Chris Evans’s dick? I know what you think. You think it’s tiny.
SCHWARTAU: First of all, if you send me a black and white, up close, out of context dark pic—I’m going to think you’re creepy.
P-H: Those guys are creepy. And they’re rarely hot. They also don’t know how to use their phone, which is insane. Then again, maybe not everyone is a gay man who’s sending and receiving 30 dick pics a day? But ultimately, I think Evans is a medium. Maybe a grower, but certainly not a dad dick.
SCHWARTAU: I do think people really feel for him in terms of his self-leaking.
P-H: There’s a lot of sympathy in the age of Zoom—the fear of what people will see, the cacophony of a screen used for both public and private. That’s why my computer name, and thus my zoom name, is Olivia Munn. Keeps people guessing.
SCHWARTAU: Okay, I feel like I look really good right now.
P-H: Finally, he has an opinion.
SCHWARTAU: One opinion down. I’m going to stop taking weed gummies. They’re messing with my mind.
P-H: Okay, last question. Do you think Pfizer and/or Trump is going to release a fake ass vaccine by the end of October?
SCHWARTAU: I’m going as the vaccine for Halloween.
P-H: The drug companies want people to think that they have a vaccine coming so their stock will go up. And Trump will definitely do that, too. So, in all likelihood, there will be no actual vaccine, but Trump will make pronouncements like, “WE’VE GOT IT. IT’S COMING, IT’S GORGEOUS. It’s beautiful. I got it. My son got it. You will get it. But not if I don’t get reelected. I won’t give it to you.”
SCHWARTAU: He is a real master of words. Master of saying nothing.
P-H: Queen of saying nothing. Meanwhile, the Obamas are just influencers now. Podcast this, exclusive bucket hat drop that.
SCHWARTAU: I mean, George Bush literally became a gay painter.
P-H: His paintings are gay in that they’re kind of formally bad, but there’s nudes. There’s that one of him, like in the bath or whatever.
SCHWARTAU: [Googles painting] Wait, this is actually really good. But it’s not a full nude.
P-H: If you’re in the bathroom, canonically you’re nude, even if you’re wearing clothes.
SCHWARTAU: It’s funny because his aesthetic is so outsider artist, even though he was president of the United States. Turns out anyone can be an outsider artist if you set your mind to it.
P-H: Do you think Trump has the attention span to make a painting? He’s so flamboyant and gay, but I don’t think he has the attention span to sit down and like, draw a horse.
SCHWARTAU: You have to be vulnerable to put paint down on canvas.