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 New York, 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 WAP, PUA, and how COVID has overtaken “Corona.” (“Everyone is a scientist now.”)
STEVEN P-H: Hello.
ERIC SCHWARTAU: It looks like there’s a Vaseline filter over your camera.
P-H: You know I’m a dewy queen.
SCHWARTAU: Dewy, greasy—two sides of the same royal family.
P-H: When it comes to skincare, I always say Markle not Middleton. Also, I just showered because I went for a run—the second run of my new life as a runner!
SCHWARTAU: You’re copying me.
P-H: In the absence of any coordinated response to COVID from the federal government, I’m trying to build my immune system by exercising. So I run for the length of one song.
SCHWARTAU: Like, a long song, or…?
P-H: No, kind of a 3:12 kind of vibe—think “Free Woman” by Gaga. That’s as far as I can go. But I’m sprinting—this isn’t a “Woman, 32, finds body in park” little morning jog. It’s a 5PM, 90 degree inferno, uphill battle. By the end of the month I will have an eight-pack, and I’ll be able to run for at least two songs.
SCHWARTAU: In my experience, running does not get you an eight-pack, but you might be a medical anomaly. Ok so, I was just at a super spreader event on [redacted]’s roof. It was very [redacted] vibes. Also, [redacted] was there, and he gave the column some love.
P-H: Wow. So all the magazine editors in the world were at this party? I guess they can’t travel like they used to.
SCHWARTAU: Magazine editors love to be everywhere at the same time. They’re little Hermoines with their magic hourglasses, just popping up at every event. At some point they stopped the music and said, “Don’t invite anyone else. Do not invite anyone else.” I was talking about leaving, but then they made that announcement and I was like okay, I can’t leave now that it’s become so exclusive. But it was definitely on the verge of becoming cancelable.
P-H: Was it outside at least?
SCHWARTAU: Yes, roof vibes primarily.
P-H: You’re fine. The new canceltini is being indoors.
SCHWARTAU: As someone from upstate California, I always hated the great indoors.
P-H: And I’m a Boy Scout, so I’ve always resented the outdoors because it makes me think of my wholesome relationship with my father. But it’s good you can qualify the party with a little parentheses (“we were outside”). Sam Taggart said that it’s the year of parentheses because every single thing you do has to have the parentheses. The captions now are always “Squad goalsss (Everyone was tested before this photo was taken, everyone wore a mask after the photo was taken, this photo was taken in 2017.)”
SCHWARTAU: I was just on a walk and I saw a fridge sitting outside with a big sign that said “Please Don’t Touch! (Covid.)”
P-H: The fridge had COVID? I hope she’s okay.
SCHWARTAU: What I’m coming to realize is—and maybe this is just the American ethos—is that the only person you can protect is yourself. You can’t necessarily think that anyone else at that party is being responsible, and that’s the condition we’re living in.
P-H: And even that can’t protect you! The safest, most paranoid person, Alyssa Milano, just got COVID.
SCHWARTAU: She got it on Baited. I have to say, I’m so fucking sick of talking about COVID.
P-H: It’s really interesting that “corona” fell off. Everyone says “COVID” now, but we never say “corona” anymore.
SCHWARTAU: Well, corona is three syllables and COVID is two syllables so it takes less effort to say.
P-H: It’s also the professionalization, science-ization, Warren-ization, degree-ification of the news cycle. “Corona” is fun, but “COVID” is work. It’s like how “global warming” became the much more Harvard-y “climate change.” Everyone is a scientist now.
SCHWARTAU: That’s very true. But COVID also sounds very startup-y, like a streaming video platform, whereas corona feels very last century—referencing beers and crowns.
P-H: Are you going to get tested before we go to dinner in one hour?
SCHWARTAU: I’m going to wait until after dinner.
P-H: Here’s my question: if capitalism is real, then when there’s a market for something, the need gets met. So why is there not rapid testing at every corner? Because there’s incredible demand for it. Riddle me that.
SCHWARTAU: You blew my mind. My little mind just exploded.
P-H: You do have a little mind.
SCHWARTAU: I actually did really well on yet another online IQ test, thank you very much.
P-H: Speaking of staring at a screen, I want to talk about Love on the Spectrum—the brilliant show about autistic Australians dating. My favorite part is when they list all the sensory things they like and dislike.
SCHWARTAU: What’s on your list?
P-H: Likes: the sound of clementine wedges peeling from one another; the feeling of putting a Sweet Tart on the tip of your nose.
SCHWARTAU: You put candy on your nose?
P-H: Yes, it’s chalky, which I appreciate because I always had oily skin, and it’s just the perfect size of a nose tip. My dislikes include my boyfriend watching Tik Toks loudly in bed before I wake up. And soft touch. I like it hard only.
SCHWARTAU: I like the sound of my own voice saying, “I went to Vassar,” and the smell of silicone lube.
P-H: Wait, I’m adding those to my dislikes as well. It’s funny that they’re Australian, because Australia is sort of on the Earth’s spectrum. I’d throw Canada on there as well.
SCHWARTAU: Pipe down. My Canadian boyfriend is in the other room.
P-H: There’s nothing wrong with being on the spectrum! And I meant more physically, like latitude vibes. Of course, with global warming, we’ll all have to move North anyway. Toronto will become the new New York. The future is autistic, Canadian, and to be frank, lesbian. I know at least three women who were straight before the pandem that are now fully in lesbian relationships.
SCHWARTAU: I wouldn’t mind being a lesbian in Ontario.
P-H: People are buying homes upstate when they should be buying microlofts in Toronto! I also love that the romantic coaching in Love on the Spectrum is the exact same as on Indian Matchmaking. They relay the absolute bare essentials on communicating with another person—which is always “find common interests.”
SCHWARTAU: I like when the girl in Houston is like, “he doesn’t have to be funny.” Not everyone wants a clown for a husband, unfortunately.
P-H: Everyone’s criteria was like, “She has to be fair-skinned, rich, between 5’9″ and 5′ 11,” and my mother.”
SCHWARTAU: It’s a negotiation—you don’t end up where you start.
P-H: One thing I appreciated about Indian Matchmaking was the matchmaker was very honest about people being the same level of attractiveness—she didn’t pull any punches. The “jolly” person got the other “jolly” person. The Instagram model girl got the cheekbones guy. There’s a lot of discourse about “King of Queens” style relationships, where you have a smokin’ hot wife and a total 5 husband—but the reality is most couples you see are pretty evenly matched. She respected that timeless tradition.
SCHWARTAU: I’ve always been a fan of arranged marriages. If you want to be in this trad relationship, your parents should choose your husband for you.
P-H: Exactly. All weddings are for the parents anyway. The whole concept of a marriage is to get your parents off your back about grandkids. Do your parents want grandkids from you?
SCHWARTAU: They’ve never mentioned it. But let’s just say I haven’t found the right “WAP” for that.
P-H: There’s a really interesting discourse happening right now around holes and what we seek from them. “Gorilla grip coochie” recently entered the lexicon, and now we have “wet ass pussy” gushing in. There’s an emerging concept of the ideal hole as being this very strong, very muscular, tight, tight, tight, tight, tight, wet, wet, wet, wet, wet space.
SCHWARTAU: The cave—a wet hole—was the original house. Once we learned to build, home became phallic in nature, about showing off rather than seeking shelter. The wet hole represents our fundamental desire for safety and comfort, which is where the true value lies. I think that sentiment is expressed in “Wet Ass Pussy.”
P-H: In this essay, I will … squirt. I feel like part of the reason that conservatives are threatened by “WAP” is that it’s very empowering. It suggests that the pussy is wet on its own; it comes to the table with all of this power, as opposed to being more of a reactive creature. It’s a pussy, ironically, with top energy.
SCHWARTAU: Conservatives are threatened because a naturally wet pussy puts Big Lube out of business.
P-H: I love when she talks about her pussy as a “little garage.” Usually it’s bad if your garage is flooded.
SCHWARTAU: Garages, one of which is famously where Apple started, have a lot of electronics in them these days, which you don’t want to get wet.
P-H: Well, the garage is typically where you go to do your projects. It’s a junk drawer of the house—there’s low expectations. And that’s why I think things can really thrive in there because it’s less monitored, it’s less on display, there’s less pressure.
SCHWARTAU: It’s unfinished. There’s a lot of potential in a garage.
P-H: The potential to be absolutely decimated by a truck. You know, what’s interesting about “WAP” is it’s only one letter off, if you switch it around, from “PUA,” which is getting revoked just as “WAP” is taking stage.
SCHWARTAU: It’s like how Kamala is both POC and COP.
P-H: In the words of Kamala, “I think we should have that conversation.” I’m so thrilled she’s back. She’s fabulous, beautiful, and terrified of having to stake a position on anything–she’s basically Selina Meyer, but arguably more sexual.
SCHWARTAU: I actually find her very fun and charismatic. I hope she wins Canada’s Drag Race.
P-H: The two of them are such a ’90s buddy cop comedy. It’s very Rush Hour/Die Hard/Lethal Weapon/Bad Boys/Men in Black. Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith. Can’t you just picture Biden as the undercover cop with aviators on, walking into a warehouse with the bad guy, throwing down a suitcase in exchange for a van of cocaine, and saying some horrible line like, “In my day, skiing was for white folks!” And then Kamala busts in with the feds, guns drawn, and the bad guys scatter?
SCHWARTAU: And yet, she’s trying hard to be Modern Family with her “Momala” schtick. Momala actually sounds very threatening.
P-H: I read an article in Vogue that said her husband was A) the lawyer for the Taco Bell chihuahua—again, 90’s—and B) his entire instagram is “Devoted” to his celebrating his wife. Once again, the pussy is in control.
SCHWARTAU: Were you expecting Doug to have an edgy meme account?
P-H: It’d be funny if he still had to run the corporate account for the Taco Bell chihuahua. And his friends get those sad notifications that are like, “Your facebook friend Doug Harris is on Instagram as @YoQuieroTacoBell_Canada.”
SCHWARTAU: I think the dog is dead now. He “moved to Canada.”
P-H: You know, “a little death” can be an orgasm in French, which they speak in Canada … maybe the chihuahua had too much of a “WAP” and needed to be treated by Ben Shapiro’s wife?
SCHWARTAU: And she killed it because she’s a bad doctor.
P-H: That actually is a segue into my next topic, which is folklore. Did you listen?
SCHWARTAU: I’m going to come out and say I’m never that riveted by anything Taylor Swift puts out. I feel like it’s very much always overproduced and overthought and over-everything. And I’m sorry, but releasing a song called “Cardigan” in the middle of summer? I’m sweating just thinking about it.
P-H: Don’t even get me started on keeping them “under the bed.” You know I hate underbed storage solutions because they mean a very high bed, which is the least sexy thing on earth.
SCHWARTAU: A cardigan stored in a rubbermaid is also the least sexy thing on earth. Anyways, that’s not to say I don’t listen to Taylor. To my great embarrassment, my number one most played song on Spotify in 2018 was “Delicate.”
P-H: You said you didn’t like overproduced and that song is entirely in vocoder. It’s incredibly produced.
SCHWARTAU: She’s corny. And the more she hangs out with Jack what’s-his-face, the more she sounds like Lana Del Rey. Folklore was very Norman Fucking Rockwell, but done in a way that felt less authentic. And she’s acting like she released the album on a whim, but you go on Spotify and there’s a full folklore virtual theme park.
P-H: A sepia-toned log flume.
SCHWARTAU: An overemotional rollercoaster.
P-H: I completely agree with you—and that’s why I like her. Taylor is fake and so am I. She is authentically fake. She was never a country person, she just went to Nashville and wrote really good country songs. Then she wrote a great transitional album—Red—and now she writes great pop music. This album is just her writing good folk-tinged pop. She’s not actually cottagecore, she’s not actually fucking a farmer, and she’s not tilling her oats or climbing a tree.
SCHWARTAU: I’m sorry but read the room—folklore is a PSL album in a “WAP” world.
P-H: Fair, but there’s a limit to how fake you can be—would you believe Taylor’s garage is flooded? Taylor is random and fake and rich, and she’s just putting that up at the forefront. One of the songs is about the previous owner of her $17 million Rhode Island estate. No one on earth could ever relate to this, but she’s able to make a catchy song about her bizarrely specific victim narrative where a tony New England town is suspicious of her. And that’s honest.
SCHWARTAU: Seeing as I was staying in Provincetown with someone who ended up having the only confirmed case of COVID there in a 14-day period, I can relate to people in New England being suspicious of you.
P-H: folklore’s aesthetic is also about land. And as that nude real estate agent we referred to as Santa on Nantucket’s gay beach told us, “Everyone wants a sanctuary right now.” People want a safe haven.
SCHWARTAU: I hate to admit it, but I have spent the past three days on Zillow.
P-H: Was it a wet ass Zillow?
SCHWARTAU: It’s a ZAP, Zillow ass pussy. Upstate prices have gone up. Everyone wants a car. My psychiatrist told me that 20 to 30 percent of her New York clients have changed their address since the pandemic started.
P-H: It’s white flight and suburbanization. The Hudson Valley is going to be the new Ridgewood.
SCHWARTAU: My friends who live upstate were like, “We had to beg people to come and visit us before, and now it’s like, get on the list.” Everyone wants out.
P-H: I was just upstate at a friend’s house who literally just bought land (it was relatively cheap, they wore masks, she’s bi), and I have to say… it was very liberating. You could piss anywhere you wanted. Zero Karens.
SCHWARTAU: You can shoot a gun, you can get naked, you can shoot a gun naked. Okay, that’s all I can think of.
P-H: So many of us Millennials—and you might even say people since the dawn of history—we grew up in our parents’ homes. We always had someone watching. Then we moved to cities and rented apartments with neighbors and landlords. We work at offices, and coffee shops, and on subway cars with signs that say you can’t go between the cars. There’s always an authority. But to be on one’s own land—and not in a HOA—there is a real weight off your chest. Again, the pissing anywhere.
SCHWARTAU: I feel way less anxious when I’ve got a few acres between me and my gay neighbor.
P-H: I think that’s just because you don’t get reception, so you can’t see when they’re on Grindr. One thing I also noticed, speaking of folklore: she says love and darling a lot in this British way, like, “Hey love,” “Isn’t that nice, darling?” I think it’s because her boyfriend’s British and she’s picking up on his language.
SCHWARTAU: I don’t want to talk about Taylor Swift anymore, Steven. I’ve finished my to-go frozen margarita, and I’m ready to move onto the next topic.
P-H: TikTok. Trump wants to ban it.
SCHWARTAU: I personally would love to ban TikTok because I just feel like it’s an insurmountable new platform to engage with.
P-H: I do think TikTok is rotting my boyfriend’s brain. So much of it just … listing things. It’s teens being like, “Okay, these are the five bracelets that every girl wears when it’s April. Let’s go.” And then they just list the bracelets. Beyond that, you’re mostly seeing a lot of really large interiors of homes.
SCHWARTAU: It reflects mainstream American culture more than dusty old Instagram and embattled Twitter. TikTok allows everyone to be a “creator” but with the acknowledgement that nothing is original. TikTok is all about building off existing content. It’s a medium for exchange, translation, and adaptation. It’s a cultural algorithm.
P-H: Medium for Exchange—is that Monet’s daughter? I guess the downside of it is it represents the depressing truth of media consumption today, i,.e., the vast majority of content now is simply content that’s made for free, by other users. Besides the last four paying jobs at Bon Appétit that everyone keeps apologizing for, people are just doing everything for free.
SCHWARTAU: This is why universal basic income makes sense because everyone is doing endless free labor for approximately three giant tech companies. People aren’t sitting around doing nothing during the pandemic, they’re making money for Facebook stockholders, whether they want to or not.
P-H: True. I have felt a lot less pained making my Tweets while getting PUA.
SCHWARTAU: What’s going to happen to PUA?
P-H: I heard that Trump added $400 back.
SCHWARTAU: The Republican talking points are so insane. They’re acting as if there is no pandemic. The whole point of PUA was to have people stay home and not work.
P-H: I do feel like there’s such fatigue and everyone’s forgetting about it. I was talking to my friend in France—to give you the France report—they were at a full rave in Paris, and I was like okay, so is it over there? And then my friend was like, “Well, basically everyone in Paris is just like, it’s totally coming back, but we just kind of stopped caring.”
SCHWARTAU: I think borders are just going to stay closed. We’re entering a phase where people don’t trust each other, let alone other nations. I think it was New Zealand that reported 100 days without community transmission of COVID, but they are completely cut off from the rest of the world.
P-H: Am I impressed by that? That’s like saying Neverwife in the Peekskills recorded 100 days of no new transmissions and it’s like, congrats to this town of six cabins? Also, it’s an island! Congrats on making it hard to enter. The ocean did that for you. I’m not impressed.
SCHWARTAU: I will say, New York is so fab now with all this outdoor dining. Of course the downside is it’s the result of a global pandemic, but I was walking around last night and it was a beautiful night out and I felt like all the al frescans were extras in a gorgeous romantic comedy starring me.
P-H: Well, don’t get used to these gorgeous Anne Hathaway summers. It’s only going to get hotter.
SCHWARTAU: People are much more aware of the weather now. We’re all farmers waking up at the crack of dawn looking at our little almanacs to see if we can be served oysters and chablis en dehors.
P-H: When were people unaware of the weather? Even in ancient times, all the tablets were like “flood this, storm that.”
SCHWARTAU: Wet ass tablets.
P-H: Part of the problem in America—and why COVID is worse here—is because of air conditioning, which is also contributing to global warming I hear. That’s why Florida is a hot spot, because it circulates in the air conditioning, and air conditioning is just bad for your immune system, as is not being outside!
SCHWARTAU: Well, I happen to love sleeping in a literal refrigerator. But I also am not in a nursing home with 30 other people.
P-H: You’re also not in Florida, thank god.
SCHWARTAU: We remain in the clutches of the prim and proper North.
P-H: Seriously. Can we talk about how the mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts, who is running for congress, is accused of being a groomer because he was putting some fully adult college students on Close Friends and DMing them? I am embarrassed for my pathetically Puritanical home state. Although I love that putting someone on Close Friends now is assault, which I kind of agree with to some extent.
SCHWARTAU: Being your close friend is a constant assault.
P-H: Whenever I’m on Close Friends it’s always just like, why am in seeing this, and why are we close? We’ve hung out three times.
SCHWARTAU: Well, we have to go to dinner.
P-H: We have to go to dinner. I also want to plug my brother’s new documentary, Immigration Nation. Watch it on Netflix.
SCHWARTAU: And I’d like to plug my boyfriend’s pitch to Netflix Canada to produce a documentary about the ’80s porn star Cicciolina, who was elected to Italian Parliament and was also Jeff Koons’s wife.
P-H: She got that KAP. Okay, now we can end.
SCHWARTAU: I’ll see you in 20 minutes.