Talk Hole: The Princess and the Podcast
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 Zoom 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 delves deep into the phenomenon of the Buckingham Palace to Dimes Square pipeline: Markle, merch-dropping, and media mayhem. Stop the presses!
SCHWARTAU: [Sees Steven with professional microphone in his home recording studio] Oh, look, if it isn’t my little busy bee. Is this a podcast now?
P-H: If you speak loud enough, everything is a podcast.
SCHWARTAU: You seem really busy with your other podcast. You moved our typically boozy column call to Monday at 2:45pm. Now it’s a work meeting?
P-H: This is work. It’s in a magazine.
SCHWARTAU: I haven’t sent in my invoice yet.
P-H: You’re super frickety-frackety right now. Is it your connection?
SCHWARTAU: [To Darryl] Babe, are you Torrenting? He claims he’s not Torrenting.
P-H: He’s not Torrenting, but he is gaslighting.
SCHWARTAU: Living torrent free in my head.
P-H: And rent free in your bed.
SCHWARTAU: Okay, I feel like I haven’t seen you in years.
P-H: I know. Our friendship fell off.
SCHWARTAU: Friendship is fluid. It’s a spectrum.
P-H: Just like my internet. So I made a list for the column, but I didn’t get too far.
SCHWARTAU: Let me guess, it says “Grammys, Kamala walking.”
P-H: Exactly. I got about as far as Kamala when she’s galloping from the East Wing to the parking lot. I’d actually like to discuss Meena Harris, because I was just looking at her Instagram and she’s infuriating.
P-H: Kamala’s niece. She has a Girlboss brand called “Phenomenal” that consists of one condescending children’s book and an array of t-shirts that say things like “She Is Girl,” “Woman is She,” “the Future is STEM,” etc. She did a Bridgerton collab that’s also just a sweatshirt that says “I want to be entertained.” Everyone in the greater Harris clan has an apparel grift.
SCHWARTAU: It’s either Ella Emhoff’s RISD knitwear or just CafePress merch.
P-H: The United States of Zazzle.
SCHWARTAU: Is capitalism working? Have we checked in on this?
P-H: It doesn’t seem like it. You have to be either the niece or the stepdaughter of a Vice President, and then you can launch a sweatshirt. It’s like, is that the only business model?
SCHWARTAU: I have yet to see another business model. Show me the other business models.
P-H: Liberals were furious about the Trumps’ nepotistic scammery—Jared “advising” Israel, Ivanka hawking her shoes, Trump pushing his hotels. But when the Democrats do the exact same thing we don’t hear a peep. No one’s saying impeach Kamala on the emoluments clause.
SCHWARTAU: I’m not sure that comparison works. Kamala isn’t launching a walking-themed hotel.
P-H: Not yet.
SCHWARTAU: I agree that she’s a very traditional politician in terms of being photographed walking.
P-H: I suppose it’s also very traditional to have a shillist family.
SCHWARTAU: You can’t stop your grifter family members from shilling. That’s been happening since the Shakespeare era.
P-H: To merch or not to merch.
SCHWARTAU: King Lear’s downfall was his aides not getting a good shot of him walking.
P-H: My issue with all this is that they’re—say it with me—manufacturing consent! Slapping a shiny Invisiligned grin across the pages of Vogue and the reels of Instagram, all in service of the empire.
SCHWARTAU: I was thinking they’re going to somehow get connected with a PR agency working for the Chinese government and become these merch-dropping, Girlbossing foreign agents casually dropping links about who owns South China Sea without even realizing it.
P-H: Who owns the sea again?
SCHWARTAU: Poseidon, and she is launching a Shell line.
P-H: She’s shilling sea shells by the sea store.
SCHWARTAU: Sorry, Shell, not shells!
P-H: It’s part of Shell Oil Company’s She Justice Initiative, which funds beauty lines for she-faring seafolks.
SCHWARTAU: It’s a waterproof makeup line sourced from sustainably-drilled petroleum byproducts.
P-H: And see, that’s the issue—they’re carrying water for Biden. Giving a rubber stamp to a White House that, so far, isn’t letting poor countries manufacture their own vaccines, so we can protect Big Pharma’s big wallet. Meanwhile, Ella is on Vogue.com talking about the pitfalls of showing a collection over Zoom. She’s manufacturing consent, not vaccines.
SCHWARTAU: The neoliberal form of fake news is PR. I got contacted on Whatsapp by “Michigan’s largest digital media firm” to see if they can pay us to plant a link to their client in one of our columns.
P-H: And you said…?
SCHWARTAU: I said that it would compromise what little editorial integrity we do have.
P-H: Kind of waiting for you to drop the link.
SCHWARTAU: I’d rather get paid to package every take in this column as an NFT.
P-H: I tried to sell a tweet as an NFT.
SCHWARTAU: Shorting that sale.
P-H: The reality is that journalists, and I’m including us in that umbrella—
SCHWARTAU: We are journalists. This is our journal.
P-H: And as journalists, we’re desperate for things to talk about. So when this Michigan PR firm says, “Hey, do you mind talking about this new Australian-made solar battery?” We say “thank god you just bought us 150 words.” That’s a win-win.
SCHWARTAU: I really do think PR is the purest form of evil. There’s nothing more evil than lipstick on a pig—
P-H: You want a pig with no makeup?
SCHWARTAU: I want guanciale.
P-H: Well, you can’t spell “pure evil” without PR.
SCHWARTAU: Everything is PR—like that whole Dimes Square article, which was a fever dream about how people of various ages hung out one time and it infuriated people of different ages, and therefore the media landscape is shifting its focus to a 3-block radius where you can buy $80 candles and bone broth. What’s going on?
P-H: Well, there’s actually nothing going on. But the fact that people say “Dimes Square” on Twitter means it becomes a thing that can be written about in an article, because journalists are just sitting on Twitter all day.
SCHWARTAU: New York media writer says media is happening in New York? That’s every article ever.
P-H: It’s a very circular logic. The premise of the piece was, “All of these people are giving a middle finger to the lamestream media by congregating offline,” and it’s like, well actually everyone in this article is on Twitter 24/7, posts about their email newsletter to Instagram, has 2 podcasts, 6 substacks, and is courting press from legacy outlets. Including us, who are not in the article.
SCHWARTAU: Reading an article is being in an article at this point.
P-H: Well, the reporter called me, seeing as I am a downtown offline icon rumored to have coined the term “Dimes Square” even though I live in Ridgewood, and our column is exclusively online and we quit live comedy before the pandemic even started. I tried to give him a workable thesis —e.g., this alleged scene grew out of the art world—and then he said he couldn’t remember why he called me.
SCHWARTAU: All this proves is that the New York Times, with their “Truth more than ever” Trump fundraising slogan, is really more interested in mythology than fact. That’s why people move to New York! It’s a city of myths.
P-H: Which proves New York is homophobic, because “myth” is hard to say with a lisp.
SCHWARTAU: Okay, we’re starting to sound like Adam Curtis.
P-H: People told me they really loved your Adam Curtis analysis.
SCHWARTAU: I mean, I really loved my analysis too.
P-H: Speaking of analysis, I want to discuss the Grammys. Do you have Paramount+?
SCHWARTAU: This rollout. CBS was airing heritage ads with their Paul Rand sixties logo being like, “remember when TV was something you watched?” followed by a ParamountLGBTQIA+ ad being like, “all the old shows, in a new place.” The new place being the liminal space between entering the activation code on my laptop and the “Success, you’re in!” notice on my TCL 49-inch RokuTV.
P-H: It was a little too desperate during the Grammys, when they’d show a miniature documentary about a Post Malone song then Trevor Noah would beg us to “watch the full video on Paramount+.” I just watched a four-minute video about a three-minute song, and now you want me to see the director’s cut?
SCHWARTAU: They didn’t even update the mountain logo. They just added a “+” sign. Plus is premium, plus is inclusive, plus is growth!
P-H: It’s also rather math-y.
SCHWARTAU: It’s interesting how TV is simply becoming basic cable again.
P-H: Like how Maid in Manhattan used to air at 4pm every day. There was nothing more comforting in high school than coming home and plopping down with a box of Gushers to catch my third viewing of the week. Now it’s re-happening, where Netflix will decide Pretty Woman is the “#1 movie of the week” and you simply pop an artisanal Pringles can and acquiesce.
SCHWARTAU: So you went to NYU because you wanted to have a maid secretly wear your clothes?
P-H: I wanted to wear Mary-Kate Olsen’s clothes. But it also portrayed this lively, warm underbelly of the service industry. Behind the gilded doors of Kamala’s new Walking-Astoria was a society of maids, who gossiped like teens and fought like sisters. I was like, “I want to be part of that. I want to be where things are happening,” to quote Kate Hudson.
SCHWARTAU: I was triggered by you saying “warm underbelly.” I’m terrified there’s not going to be the same forgiveness for the pandemic body this summer.
P-H: The next two months are sort of do-or-die. The other day, I went to Fanelli’s and I did not order a burger—I literally ordered a grilled chicken salad. This is my life now. I’m literally the girl who orders grilled chicken salads at the bar because it’s two months until swimsuit season and the quar 15 has to go.
SCHWARTAU: I hope you went light on the dressing. That’s where the calories really add up, or so I heard in AP Salad class.
P-H: The sad part is, if you want to become that girl, you have to make that grilled chicken salad choice almost every time, which feels rather monastic and self-flagellating.
SCHWARTAU: I mean, there is a moment for a salad. It’s the food version of a cold glass of seltzer. Refreshing and crisp.
P-H: We must cultivate our desire for salad. Did you see that TikTok where it showed how to make the “Poosh meeting salad” that Kourtney Kardashian has at her weekly meeting for her fake brand Poosh? It was just avocado, cherry tomatoes, and lettuce. And grilled chicken, of course.
SCHWARTAU: There’s only so many ingredients that can fit in a TikTok.
P-H: I love the idea of this really normal office lunch being aspirational. Not just a salad that a vague lifestyle brand is recommending, but the salad that the editors of the vague lifestyle brand eat at their meetings—cosplaying as the Poosh employee herself, staring dead-eyed at her co-Poosher’s PowerPoint.
SCHWARTAU: I just imagined the Poosh salad served in a giant bucket of water in the conference room and the editors have to bob for cherry tomatoes like they’re apples.
P-H: “Poosh” is actually the sound it makes when you bob for salad.
SCHWARTAU: It’s portion control. It’s kind of like when my parents put rocks in my dogs’ food bowl to slow them down. They have to pay attention to what they’re eating.
P-H: I don’t know why they haven’t invented that for humans. I feel like that could really do numbers. Especially in these next two months of rapid slim-down.
SCHWARTAU: Fat wallets, skinny waists. This is Biden’s America.
P-H: The Department of BMI is now open.
SCHWARTAU: The IRS is now the Injectable Restylane Service.
P-H: I saw an ad for something called “Chisell,” which was a gum you chew to make your jawline more prominent. Everyone’s saying we’re heading into the 1920s post-vax—but I sense a darker, more Hunger Games District 1 vibe. A lot of body mod, cyborgification, and insane makeup. Chewing on non-swallowable putty to get a Chad jaw, getting direct-to-consumer fillers so your face looks like the puppy filter. Making the real world look like a Zoom meeting, and a Zoom meeting look like a rave. Digitally bored peacocking.
SCHWARTAU: Isn’t that what the flapper dress was all about?
P-H: No, and let me runwaysplain to you why. Coco Chanel wanted women’s bodies to move more, to bounce and sashay. She designed these LBDs as a reaction to the Victorian waist-training era. But the trend in fashion now is not ease of moment. It’s all blazers, painful shoes, formal wear, and heavy necklaces.
SCHWARTAU: I will need a full body brace to prop up my atrophied ex-Crossfit body if I’m going to ever leave the house.
P-H: Did you see Beyoncé at the Grammys? Her earrings weighed 30 kilos each, made from a mixture of melted gold and dark matter. It was villainous. There was something very sinister about all the celebrities with their custom matching masks at a distanced brunch, receiving their adulation in broad daylight.
SCHWARTAU: Also, all the performances were “live,” but they were also filmed on a Staples Center set in a COVID-vaccinated warehouse in Korea. You had no idea of space and time, which also relates to the idea that I feel like the Grammys are always awarding stuff that came out three years ago. Like, when did that Doja Cat song come out?
P-H: I’ve been stomping down through Dimes Square to that song for at least 3 years. I think the Grammys are stupid for many reasons. They just award the most popular songs of the year, as if we don’t already know. At least the Oscars have this pretense of acknowledging the most “artistic” films of the year.
SCHWARTAU: The Grammys celebrates music we all listen to, whereas the Oscars celebrates films no one has ever seen.
P-H: Actors are far needier than musicians. They desperately require validation in the form of a statue, whereas musicians have so many more avenues for their art. Music videos, touring, Capital One collaborations. They don’t need the pat on the head, or the WAP.
SCHWARTAU: So many avenues to $0.005-per-stream Spotify checks. The only thing I ever remember about the Grammys is Norah Jones winning six Grammys and me being like, “Whomst?” And then I see her face on a CD in the Starbucks checkout line for the next decade being like “the six-time Grammy award winning artist and venti-platinum selling album.”
P-H: Norah Jones is the canonical Grammy winner—something that’s more popular than it should be. It’s very “this really shouldn’t have taken off, but randomly people are listening to this jazz-inflected slumber pop on the radio, so good for you!”
SCHWARTAU: I mean, as a member of society, I have a lot of takes on the Grammys, but I will say it was really cringe when Billie was like, “Meg, you should’ve won this award.”
P-H: White guilt is a dish best served cold. It was especially cringe because the implication was that a Grammy is actually meaningful. And Meg had already won, like, two Grammys that night anyway. Everyone got a Grammy. Don’t bring a Grammy into school unless you’re gonna bring one for the whole class.
P-H: I want to talk about Meghan Markle, but I also want to talk about the family.
SCHWARTAU: As in, the Institution?
P-H: No, as in having kids. Separate topic.
SCHWARTAU: Yet linked, in many ways.
P-H: My boyfriend’s been reading this book—obviously I would never read anything other than a celebrity memoir because I’m a populist, not a sniveling academic—but it offers a rebuttal to the sort of black-pilled trad argument that having kids is a noble, almost socialist way to counter the consumption-driven Hunger Games narcissist neoliberal Chisell-while-you-wait culture we mentioned.
SCHWARTAU: Having kids is extremely neoliberal! It’s all about growth and making sure there’s a continuing supply of greedy little gullets to slurp up burrito bowls and cry until they get a PS7. Your personal decision to have a child is just a perfect storm of Janet Yellen raising interest rates and Viagra being covered under Medicare, or something like that.
P-H: I agree, but you could make the argument that between 1950 and 1975-ish that having a kid was at least somewhat noble because we had better welfare and a middle class. Now wealth is once again mostly hereditary, and since we’re all becoming more sallow and screen-pilled, you’ll need your kid to support you when your wrists give out at 50, and your kid needs you to clothe and feed them until they’re 30, because the job market is weak and they literally don’t know how to cook, save for waiting in a humiliating line to buy frozen mushroom jerky at Trader Joe’s. So the family is becoming a much more defensive, isolated economic unit.
SCHWARTAU: You need your kids to help you to invest in Bitcoin.
P-H: To tell you what not to post so you don’t get canceled.
SCHWARTAU: Personally, I count each boyfriend as a dependent, and I do expect $300 per month in perpetuity. I’m a little shocked that you just get $300 per kid per month for the rest of your life for just popping them out.
P-H: [Sounds of typing] Sorry, I was just talking to my publicist.
SCHWARTAU: Can you not? I could be sending my Interview invoice right now.
P-H: Sorry, I’m talking to my invoice right now. No, I agree with what you just said.
SCHWARTAU: You don’t even know what I said. I said so many different things that you could easily disagree with.
P-H: Then I’ll disagree with you once we edit it. Okay, Markle.
SCHWARTAU: First of all, Oprah. Fantastic reaction GIFs!
P-H: The woman knows how to GIF.
SCHWARTAU: The pacing, the acting! There was so much space to edit around each clip.
P-H: That’s a brilliant point, Eric. The CBS editors made it easily cuttable for your average TikTok/Twitter/Instagram user. Even the setting was full of space. The big Adirondack chairs in the middle of—was it Tyler Perry’s backyard or Oprah’s? Maybe it was rented.
SCHWARTAU: Through the Yardly app, which connects underused yards with over-privileged celebrities. I think it was Oprah’s “good friend?”
P-H: Her good friend, Paramount+. Even the content was vague. We got very few specifics. Meghan would say, “We didn’t get the support we needed.” And Oprah would go, “So you weren’t supported?” And she’d be like, “And there wasn’t support.”
SCHWARTAU: And yet it was all the support woke Twitter needed.
P-H: I’m sure she did have a horrible time. I’m sure they were mean to her. I’m sure they were racist. But it’s like, you literally signed up to be a princess. And not just that, you signed up to be second-fiddle princess. It’s a monarchy—the eldest rules. Hello, have you seen The Crown? It’s about the younger siblings being chopped liver. Or, I guess, moldy scones.
SCHWARTAU: They also kept saying “security.” That felt dark. Now more than ever, the British monarchy needs 300lb bouncers to keep the plebes away.
P-H: Did the word “security” mean security guards or the financial security of having a steady supply of rubies and emeralds form the royal vault?
SCHWARTAU: It was a dog whistle to the Queen being like, “Pay me, bitch.”
P-H: A Corgi whistle. I can’t believe she said, “I never Googled him.” As if they met on Hinge! It’s not embarrassing to admit you fell in love with this ginger because he’s a prince. It’s not shameful to sleep your way to the top!
SCHWARTAU: And it’s not shameful to sleep your way to the bottom, either.
P-H: The reality is, she’s moving back to America to launch a “storytelling” podcast network/sweatshirt line and have more control over her own career. There wasn’t a lot of room for advancement on the royalty track. She didn’t want to be cutting ribbons at the urgent care center for maimed bakers in Thistlewickshire. She wanted to podcast.
SCHWARTAU: The Buckingham Palace recording studio was not up to snuff.
P-H: There’s just this gay at Buckingham Palace making sure that all the cords are in the right place. And she’s being like, “My mic’s not working!”
SCHWARTAU: I imagine the Institution just being a gay guy writing emails to Meghan like, “Sorry for the delay, her highness says there’s no budget.”
P-H: Maybe they do have to tighten the purse a bit.
SCHWARTAU: They shouldn’t have given Prince George the royal Glossier login.
P-H: He’s been going through two palettes a week in quar. Where does the Queen’s money come from—taxes? I kind of imagine there’s just this big chest of doubloons and galleons they’ve had since they bodied the Spanish Armada in the 1500’s.
SCHWARTAU: I think they have a diversified portfolio in that it’s big and inclusive of lots of money. Nothing makes more money than money.
P-H: Meanwhile my crypto keeps making bad decisions.
SCHWARTAU: My Robinhood account just recovered after a dark plunge into the Red Sea, shall we say.
P-H: This is why you shouldn’t watch your investments too closely. Watch Paramount+ instead.
SCHWARTAU: Right. Everyone downloaded Robinhood and invested in Tesla and then it crashed. Okay, is this where I plug GM’s strategic lithium mining investments, which I am not getting paid for through a backchannel WhatsApp deal with Michigan’s largest digital marketing agency. Disclaimer: I am not a certified financial planner.
P-H: I would like to plug my podcast, which just signed with Remarkleable by Meghan Productions. But to your point about making rash investing choices, I think we are just reacting—not proacting. Netflix tells us everyone is watching Pretty Woman, so we watch it. We’re monkeys with a shared password. No one is proactive anymore.
SCHWARTAU: Except for our friend Emily Segal, who sees the future.
P-H: Emily said food will be spicier in the future, which I have to agree with, as A) we all need increasingly aggressive stimulants to jolt us back into reality, and B) the global balance of power is pivoting to Asia, where food tends to be spicier (except Japan, of course).
SCHWARTAU: So true. I just made a peanut tofu curry thing last night that was really balanced and powerful.
P-H: And I just made an Asian-inspired dressing for a harvest bowl of hard-boiled eggs, quick-pickled carrots, and kale. No carbs. Bikini season, here we come.
SCHWARTAU: I’ve never heard you say pickled without the word quick before.
P-H: I’m very impatient.
SCHWARTAU: The idea of pickling something is insane to me. I don’t have a pickling cellar in my 1.5 bedroom. Fast cucumber is enough for me.
P-H: That’s what they call me on Grindr.
SCHWARTAU: Okay, bye. I’m gonna go quick-pickle my boyfriend.
P-H: I’m going to go record my podcast.
SCHWARTAU: A princess’s work is never done.