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 discusses Steven’s extreme nose makeover, doing everything in Paris, and Hunter Biden’s missing dick pics. (Where are they?)
STEVEN P-H: Okay, what’s with this Star Trek shirt?
ERIC SCHWARTAU: It’s Nike.
SCHWARTAU: But do you see how it does a little optical illusion?
P-H: I don’t know what it’s supposed to be doing. My eyes are still recovering from my surgery.
SCHWARTAU: You didn’t get LASIK.
P-H: No, but the surgery was near the eyes.
SCHWARTAU: How is recovery going?
P-H: I’m forcing my body to turn a corner. Kind of like America with COVID. I don’t care what the statistics say—I’m done feeling couchbound and useless.
SCHWARTAU: Sounds like you’re on the precipice of a deadly turn.
P-H: Fingers crossed.
SCHWARTAU: Part of surgery is about taking a journey through pain. It’s like going to a noise show.
P-H: For our unaware readers, I had sinus surgery—not a nose job. It was sort of like a dream nose makeover. Basically the inside of your sinuses is like a house with a lot of walls, and the surgery makes it an open floor plan, so the air can flow better. They completely revamp the interior, but the facade stays the same.
SCHWARTAU: I would’ve tapered the tip a bit if I were you.
P-H: It wasn’t in the budget.
SCHWARTAU: To be honest, I feel like culturally we’re going back closed-plan living. We thought we wanted open plans, but all of a sudden everyone’s WFH. The kids are home, and everyone’s just in this big, loud echo chamber. I’m a little worried that your sinuses are going to feel the same way.
P-H: My sinuses never had kids. They still fuck. I also realized when I do coke it just clusters at the bottom of my nostril—it was never really getting up there, so I’ve probably been using more than I need to get the desired effect. I could save a lot of money now.
SCHWARTAU: I prefer if you didn’t advocate drug use. I wish our column were a little more like D.A.R.E.
P-H: You want our column to be a police-led seminar for fifth graders?
SCHWARTAU: I want it to have t-shirts.
P-H: Can I say something? The medical-industrial complex will foist any procedure they can on you to make money. I had a panic attack the night before my surgery, where I was like, “I don’t need this. They’re just using me to turn a profit!” I had this existential crisis—am I just a hypochondriac white woman addicted to WebMD, or do I actually have a severe medical problem that requires intervention?
SCHWARTAU: The fee-for-service system makes everyone paranoid.
P-H: And of course, the surgeon comes in after like, “You had really bad sinuses. You really needed this.” But I can’t trust her. No one’s a neutral actor.
SCHWARTAU: When I had my appendix removed, I found this gay male nurse to be very trustworthy and sexy.
P-H: I had a male nurse whom I wanted to be gay and I did find him extremely trustworthy.
SCHWARTAU: Male nurses are a 10 on the trust-o-meter.
P-H: When I arrived at the hospital, I was actually mistaken for a male nurse. I was like, um actually, I’m a customer!
SCHWARTAU: I love being mistaken for an employee. Like when you go to Best Buy in a blue polo.
P-H: Anyway, I’ve decided I’m going to the Caribbean. I need a vacation from my recovery.
SCHWARTAU: You are so brave. Which island?
P-H: Epstein’s. The local economy is really hurting down there without him. Should we talk about the election?
SCHWARTAU: I tried to vote today, and failed…
P-H: I knew this would happen.
SCHWARTAU: Well, I wanted to mail an absentee ballot, and then I realized I don’t know what a stamp is. So then I went to what I thought was my early voting spot because I usually vote there, but then I went in and it was like, a nursing home—
P-H: —so you gave everyone COVID and left?
SCHWARTAU: —and then I looked it up on some website and it was like you actually have to go to this other building, and then I was running late to go on a hike in New Jersey randomly, so I just took the ballot in an envelope with me—
P-H: You went on a hike with your ballot? To New Jersey? I think that invalidates it.
SCHWARTAU: I was clutching it close to my breast like a newborn the entire time.
P-H: They’re gonna ask if your ballot has traveled to any of the states on the “banned” list, then make you burn it. Are you gonna reveal who you voted for?
SCHWARTAU: You know, Steven, that’s private. I don’t have to tell my husband who I voted for. But I did talk with the other wives in the HOA and we’ve decided we don’t support misogynist presidents!
P-H: So you voted “NO” for Bernie.
SCHWARTAU: I actually just crossed out Joe Biden and circled Kamala.
P-H: Or you could just cross out “”Joe” and write “Jill.”
SCHWARTAU: The doctor is in!
P-H: I haven’t decided if I’m gonna vote. I’ve yet to hear an argument explaining why my vote in a non-swing state matters.
SCHWARTAU: I mean, people are really testing me. Whatever people are saying on the internet is not making me want to vote.
P-H: The closer we get to the election, the more nonsensical people’s arguments are becoming. It’s this endless word salad: vote, raise your voice, speak your choice, express your mouth, give yourself a papercut with a scented ballot, assfuck a mailbox, call the police so you can defund them, knock on doors and break windows and stop looters so Biden can carry a state where your vote won’t make a difference and 17 judges are running unopposed. Nothing less than our democracy is at stake!
SCHWARTAU: If I see one more thirst trap telling me to vote (besides our own), I swear to god…
P-H: Isn’t now the exact time to discuss why the combination of the electoral college and a two-party system is anti-democratic? But instead it’s like, “Express yourself!” It’s like if you go to the barbershop and the barber is like, “Okay, you can either have bangs or not bangs,” and you’re like, “Well, I wanted a mullet but I guess I’ll get not bangs,” and then everyone in the shop is like, “Actually we want bangs,” and then you just have to get bangs. That’s not “self-expression.”
SCHWARTAU: So what do you want?
P-H: I would like if the Electoral College did not exist so that my vote in New York meant something. I would like a multi-party system so we don’t have this “lesser of two evils” conversation every four years forever and end up with a candidate like Joe Biden who stands for nothing. I would like if “democracy” didn’t mean choosing between a whiter project of corporate liberalisation and a slightly more diverse one. I would like if this breathless circus of electoral politics actually shifted the direction of this country the way it purports to—but it doesn’t. And it hasn’t since Reagan.
SCHWARTAU: Well, I’m glad you said that because I don’t want to just, you know, discourage people from raising their voices.
P-H: Raise Your Voice is one of my favorite Hilary Duff vehicles, I will say.
SCHWARTAU: It’s just such a football game and everyone cheers for their team. And they’re waving their totes, screaming “Go Dems!” without any criticality.
P-H: Waving their totes? Have you ever been to a sports game?
SCHWARTAU: I’m sure they wave totes in rowing.
P-H: True. Crew is famously tote-centric. I mean, J.Crew! I saw an ad the other day for a women’s multivitamin: it showed all these deliriously happy women—one was pregnant, another doing yoga, and one was slapping an “I Voted” sticker on her blazer. It was presenting voting as just another way to be a Girlboss with your B12, and it’s like… voting is something you do once every 4 years. It’s not a lifestyle! It’s not a quotidian slay.
SCHWARTAU: I want it to be like Estonia, where we all vote on our phones and the government takes our information and pays our taxes for us.
P-H: That’s what’s happening in Estonia?
SCHWARTAU: The government is just an app over there.
P-H: Wow! I guess Estonia’s not so stone age-ia. As I’ve said before in this column, I believe in randomization. People should randomly get called to serve in the highest levels of government, including president, just like jury duty.
SCHWARTAU: Right, so the corrupt people can be in charge for, like, a day, but it won’t do that much. Game-ify it.
P-H: Okay, Andrew Yang.
SCHWARTAU: I feel like we haven’t done a column in forever. Can we talk about Emily in Paris, or is it too late?
P-H: Non, c’est pas trop tard. On y va!
SCHWARTAU: I don’t understand the critics who say it’s “not realistic.” Have they ever heard of fantasy? Do they have any dreams? It’s not meant to be a gritty exposé. It’s not like this Gaspar Noé film where Monica Belucci is getting raped.
P-H: So you think realism is rape?
SCHWARTAU: I mean, in terms of French films. French films are very sadistic.
P-H: J’agree. That’s what’s so funny about Emily in Paris’s sexuality. It’s this completely consequence-less Girlboss prism of desire where she’s super empowered and constantly telling men they’re sexist—and then turning around and immediately running into a man who works in her office and lives in her apartment and falling in love with him. Which is very un–French. Because French cinematic sexuality has to be all about pain and tragedy and death and rape, etc.
SCHWARTAU: Exactly. My friend was also saying it wasn’t “realistic” that she got that many followers in three weeks. I’m like, this is what you latch onto? Paris is a metaphor, sweetie! It’s a meme. It’s a journey. If you just lobotomize yourself, it’s a really fun adventure.
P-H: The brain cells I lost watching this show? I was like “au revoir, bitch!” I didn’t lose any of the good ones.
SCHWARTAU: And the amount of discourse it’s inspired! I mean, they’re starting a master’s in Emily in Paris at Columbia.
P-H: I got my master’s in Emily in Paris in New York.
SCHWARTAU: Anything that gets people talking…
P-H: … c’est bon. Which brings us to Hunter Biden.
SCHWARTAU: I was trying to find the foot job video today, but I can’t.
P-H: Did you see the dick pic though? I don’t know if it’s real. What’s funny about some of the pics is that they say, like, “Chateau Marmont” on the Apple Preview timestamp, and, like, he’s weighing crack on a scale at the Chateau! All I ever did there was pay $35 for a martini. Okay, I sent you the dick pic. Do you see it?
SCHWARTAU: [Looks at pic] What. What is this. What is that measuring tape?
P-H: I don’t really know what’s going on with this.
SCHWARTAU: This picture is insane.
P-H: It’s from Taiwan, I think. I guess we’re not meant to know if anything is real.
SCHWARTAU: This looks like a contemporary painting.
P-H: I could see this at the next triennial. The shaft doesn’t look that wide. You can tell by the ratio of finger size to base, where he’s holding it.
SCHWARTAU: I agree that there is a lot of optical illusion going on. I’m not sure in which direction though.
P-H: And if you search Google images, nothing comes up, which is sus AF.
SCHWARTAU: I do feel like the media is conspiring to stop this news from coming out.
P-H: Which then makes it an even bigger story because of the coverup.
SCHWARTAU: It’s just obviously Republican operatives who are trying to make Biden look bad.
P-H: Russia! Taiwan! But it doesn’t really work. It may have worked against Hillary in a gendered way, where we see her as an untrustworthy Medusa—but you can’t make a guy’s drug addict failson reflect badly on him. Men are supposed to have at least one son who’s a fuck-up.
SCHWARTAU: Also, with Hillary it was about her, not her daughter.
P-H: Can you imagine if the 2016 October surprise was about Chelsea? If pics leaked of her railing coke off a tufted ottoman in her Gramercy loft? Then I may have actually voted for Hillary.
SCHWARTAU: With Hillary, people had this idea women should really be in control of emails. Men of course have no idea what’s going on, emails flinging around left and right—the secretary will get it! But there was an unfair expectation on Hillary to control her email flow.
P-H: I mean, the promotions folder alone is a two-man job.
SCHWARTAU: Two-person job.
SCHWARTAU: Yeah.. it made me feel very old.
P-H: As a hardcore PS4 gamer, I just couldn’t get into the like, PC multiplayer vibes. Like, I’m not a nerd. I don’t go on Twitch. I fuck, okay?
SCHWARTAU: You fuck your PS4?
P-H: I hump the controller when it vibrates.
SCHWARTAU: But you don’t play games with other people online?
P-H: No, I’m not one of those psycho Austin-based lifting bro preppers with a headset mic and a vat of Gatorade screaming “Let’s go fuckers!” as they tear into a horde of orcs or whatever. One time I tried one of those games and I got killed immediately, and people were so angry at me. I was just like, “This is triggering to when I had to play handball in middle school and everyone called me a faggot! I have to go.”
SCHWARTAU: The getting bullied makes me very nervous.
P-H: I prefer being solo. I like to take my time with a video game. I spend hours just like, walking around the town and looking at people’s outfits.
SCHWARTAU: You’re playing Emily in Paris?
P-H: I’m in Paris in my mind at all times. Do you want to talk about any of the fashion shows that happened since our last column?
P-H: It sounds like you liked it because you recognized people. I really liked the Balenciaga show/video, which was people walking in Paris, a city made famous by Emily, to this mix of “I wear my sunglasses at night.”
SCHWARTAU: Did I tell you about my [redacted] shoot?
SCHWARTAU: They sent me the clothes and used a photo without my face for the campaign.
P-H: You did not tell me this.
SCHWARTAU: Yes, I did. You were over when all the clothes were around.
P-H: They specifically asked you to model?
SCHWARTAU: I signed an NDA.
P-H: I’m literally furious. I don’t understand.
SCHWARTAU: They just sent clothes to micro-influencers.
P-H: But like, you’re micro-er than me. Why didn’t I get any fucking clothes?
SCHWARTAU: Why can’t you just be happy for me?
P-H: Because I care about fashion. I spend a lot of money on clothes and you don’t.
SCHWARTAU: Anyway, this was not really a huge deal.
P-H: Did you get to keep the clothes?
SCHWARTAU: No. But I’m getting a check.
P-H: I feel like you didn’t tell me about this because you knew I’d be jealous.
SCHWARTAU: This is true.
P-H: And you’re just telling me this now and it’s kind of insane that I have to deal with the fallout from all this in the middle of my recovery from surgery. The only thing brands ever ask me to market is fucking seltzer. Did I even tell you the flavor of seltzer that seltzer brand sent me?
SCHWARTAU: First of all, can we just say that you get a lot of attention that I don’t get, so I don’t know why you need to be angry at all. You already did Rowing Blazers. You had your own show on VFILES.
P-H: It was pumpkin spice seltzer! It was disgusting.
SCHWARTAU: You just want what I want.
P-H: Yes, every time you have something, I want it. I don’t know why you haven’t figured this out by now.
SCHWARTAU: I knew that already.
P-H: You can’t spell Talk Hole without toxic.
SCHWARTAU: It’s toxic because I’m just like, the closest thing to you. You should aspire to more than just what your friend who lives two blocks away from you has. You should want something bigger.
P-H: You’re right. My ambitions are actually massive. They’re actually too big for Ridgewood.
SCHWARTAU: And that’s how we’re going to defeat fascism.
P-H: Defeating fascism, defeating democracy, defeating COVID, celebrating COVID and those are experiencing it.
SCHWARTAU: Keep COVID weird!
P-H: You should tweet that.
SCHWARTAU: Okay, can we just have this be water over the bridge?
P-H: I think water usually goes under the bridge. If it’s going over the bridge you’ve got a serious problem.
SCHWARTAU: I should be banned from trying to use metaphors.
P-H: I want to talk about skate culture. I’ve been playing “Tony Hawk,” which they recently re-released on PS4, and I feel like it’s a throwback to this kind of innocent masculinity where they’re just sort of dumb and it’s about impressing people in this clumsy way. It feels nostalgic, especially now when you have to be the Elon Musk or the Kanye, or at least the six-packed influencer, to get the girl.
SCHWARTAU: Skaters were pre-himbo. They were rebelling against the gym bod.
P-H: Right. They’re kind of lithe, and the muscles they do have are from actually skating—not just having a gym membership to build pecs that you go sit on a couch and take selfies with.
SCHWARTAU: And this is why I bike to work sometimes.
P-H: The economic angle is interesting too: a lot of skating happens in these abandoned pools, abandoned malls, empty parking lots—these spaces of economic decay. The unattended detritus of suburban expansion.
SCHWARTAU: But at the same time, skating really took off in the 70s on, like, very clean new paved suburban roads. Because you need that smooth asphalt.
P-H: The skateboard itself kind of traverses the rise and decline of suburban sprawl. There’s obviously a punk, counter-culture element to it—it requires a certain lack of supervision from authorities. But now, of course the fashion, which was once very Southern California alt, has become mainstream. Everything at Urban Outfitters and Old Navy is very skate-inspired, from the cropped pants to the bucket hats.
SCHWARTAU: I’m not really attracted to skate culture. At least not like straight girls are.
P-H: Well, in an old fashioned way, girls like that skaters are doing ollies to try to impress them. It’s nice to see that effort.
SCHWARTAU: I prefer a lack of effort. From everyone.
P-H: Or maybe they’re attracted to the camaraderie? It can be very homosexual, and therefore sexy, when a bunch of guys are together.
SCHWARTAU: It can be especially homosexual when a bunch of guys are fucking.
P-H: The one other thing I wanted to bitch about is everyone loving mutual aid. I feel like mutual aid is a sign that society is, like, not working. It’s not a solution.
SCHWARTAU: I agree. Mutual aid is also problematic because sites like GoFundMe are poised to become banks, essentially.
P-H: Exactly. Venmo is now owned by PayPal—they’ve already become a massive financial institution. I’m sure they’re leveraging all the cash we’ve got sitting on our balances.
SCHWARTAU: It’s also strange to see people’s Twitter profiles with their ca$happ in the bio. I guess I’m jealous? But I have to wonder if these people are making any dough.
P-H: Obviously, it’s been effective for some. There was a handful of people during the height of Black Lives Matter who really raked it in, but handful is the operative word here. It’s not an effective solution to broad economic problems. There’s no way every person on earth who lacks basic needs can start a GoFundMe.
SCHWARTAU: I feel like the people who need it the most are also incapable of running an effective campaign on social media. It just lends itself to scammery.
P-H: Not that there’s anything wrong with scammery. It’s just that the vast majority of people who need help are never going to be able to get it through this method. So it becomes more about a digital guilt performance.
SCHWARTAU: I don’t necessarily feel as cynical about people’s posting habits. I think some people genuinely feel very empathetic and donate. But there’s definitely a lot of performing.
P-H: That’s the difference, though, between the digital and the non. When you give a homeless guy a $10 bill, the performance is just between you and him. You can have a moment of humanity on the street where you’re just two people, and you don’t have to lie to yourself that you’re solving some crisis. It’s just being nice. Sure, it’s slightly for your benefit, but it’s not for your 700 followers and ex co-workers and roommates.
SCHWARTAU: 700 followers? Not in my Paris.
P-H: Okay, only more thing, then I have to irrigate my nostrils. I’ve been reading a book about Pompeii that ironically, I bought off the street from some girls who said they were donating the money to some cause. So I guess that was mutual aid.
SCHWARTAU: It’s donating to the victims of Pompei?
P-H: Descendants of victims. They’ve got a lot of inherited trauma. I was reading about this lawsuit going on in 70AD from this angry bitch whose husband cheated on her with one of their slaves and had a daughter. The mistress later bought her freedom and moved to a new house, but when she died, the jilted wife sued the daughter, saying the other house belonged to her because the mom was their slave at the time of conception!
P-H: And I just thought, wow—nothing’s changed! People are still petty bitches. It’s also insane to enter into litigation when every document has to be chiseled on stone. And the lawsuit was still pending when the volcano went all the way off.
SCHWARTAU: This sounds like an Elena Ferrante story.
P-H: It honestly would be a good movie. Netflix, option the column!
SCHWARTAU: Emily in Pompeii.
P-H: She’s getting the perfect volcano selfie. The likes are erupting!
SCHWARTAU: Okay, that’s it.
P-H: Au revoir. And remember—VOTE.
SCHWARTAU: I already forgot.
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