Talk Hole: Best Unoriginal Screenplay
Two gay guys discuss Oscar Night... and more
WELCOME TO TALK HOLE, A MONTHLY TOPICAL CONVERSATION BETWEEN COMEDIANS ERIC SCHWARTAU AND STEVEN PHILLIPS-HORST. TALK HOLE BEGAN IN 2015 AS A STANDUP SHOW IN CHINATOWN, THEN A SERIES OF PROMOTIONAL CAMPAIGNS AND ART ACTIVATIONS, AND NOW THIS COLUMN.
INT. BACKSEAT OF A LYFT
ERIC and STEVEN, two lanky gays in their early-to-mid thirties, bounce violently over New York City’s uneven streets, their increasing nausea a result of decades of underinvestment in public infrastructure. Eric anxiously pulls at the hairs on his chin. Steven swipes Eric’s hand from his face.
STEVEN: Stop pulling!
ERIC: My ex is gonna be at this Oscar party. I’m nervous.
STEVEN: Just remember — that article he wrote about “vibe shifts” has completely dissipated from the discourse. He can’t hurt you now.
ERIC: Gays always find a way to stay relevant.
STEVEN: Like how Andy Warhol got shot.
ERIC: Then latched on to the next generation of artists.
STEVEN: That reminds me, we should really hire an intern.
ERIC: To keep us up to speed on Gen Z art?
STEVEN: No, to shoot us.
ERIC: There’s already so much violence in the world. The war in Ukraine. Cis women losing at sports.
STEVEN: The construction on my block.
ERIC: I just want to be a part of it. I want to participate. I want to be a hero.
STEVEN: So does everyone. Did you see Amy Schumer’s campaign to get Zelensky to Zoom into the Oscars?
ERIC: I think Biden fumbled Zelensky’s Zoom bag by accidentally calling for regime change.
STEVEN: Zoom fatigue is real.
ERIC: Plus he’s already got that Netflix series.
STEVEN: We need to get invaded if we want a Netflix series.
ERIC: We need to get invaded if we want to stay above the fold on Gawker.
INT. PROSPECT HEIGHTS APARTMENT
A group of adult gays are watching the Oscars. Eric and Steven arrive as Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes and Regina Hall take the stage.
STEVEN: Three women hosting the Oscars at once! What a win for representation.
ERIC: Yes, it takes three women to do the work of one man.
STEVEN: And it takes two gay men to do the work of one woman.
ERIC: Which means it would take six gay men to host the Oscars.
STEVEN: Please welcome next year’s Oscar hosts — the cast of Queer Eye and John Travolta.
ERIC: This is the end game of liberalism. Endless dithering. Host by committee. Two women New York Times presidential endorsements. Two TIME people of the year. No one can make a decision.
STEVEN: But it’s also a reflection of female-style leadership. They share responsibility, they share the spoils. It’s collaborative versus competitive.
ERIC: I’m collaborative and competitive.
STEVEN: Which is homosexual-style leadership.
PARTY HOST: Does anyone want a Negroni with Cynar? It’s like a Negroni but with Cynar instead of Campari.
STEVEN: A newgroni!
STEVEN: But is sweet vermouth still the third component? I’m wary of excessive vermouth. I know it’s supposed to be a 1:1:1 ratio but sometimes it’s just too much for me.
ERIC: Vermouth is the Amy Schumer of Negronis. Too much for some people.
HOST: I don’t have to make the Negroni.
STEVEN: No, I want to take the risk. Just like Jane Campion coming to another awards show.
AMY SCHUMER: It was so brave of Amazon to make a movie about Lucille Ball without a single joke in it.
Gay guys all laugh.
ERIC: She’s killing it.
STEVEN: This is a huge win for your community, Eric. Did you guys know Amy Schumer recently came out as having triskaidekaphobia? Which Eric also has!
ERIC: It’s actually called trichotillomania.
GAY GUY AT PARTY: What’s that?
ERIC: It’s when you pull your hair out due to anxiety.
STEVEN: Yeah, Amy has to wear a wig now.
ERIC: Like Andy Warhol. Did anyone else watch the new doc?
GAY GUY: Your wig looks great, Eric.
ERIC: Oh, it’s not a wig. I only pull at my beard.
STEVEN: That’s what Will Smith says about Jada.
STEVEN: Maybe triskaidekaphobia is just the fear of unstable outdoor decking.
ERIC: I think it’s the fear of being funny.
Steven looks up the term on his phone.
STEVEN: The official Oscar guide says it’s the fear of the number 13.
ERIC: Which is how many nominees there are for Best Picture.
STEVEN: And that’s only Best Male Picture.
ERIC: I hope transmasc films are allowed to compete.
STEVEN: What’s a transmasc film?
ERIC: The Lost Daughter.
HOST: Here’s your Cynar Negroni.
STEVEN: My lost daughter!
ERIC: She’s full-groni.
OTHER GAY GUY: Can you gays quiet down? We’re trying to watch.
STEVEN: But the Oscars are boring.
ERIC: The most interesting thing so far is Timothée Chalamet not wearing a shirt. If I wanted to see a shirtless twink, I’d go on Grindr.
STEVEN: The Oscars are boring because movies are dead. I am quoting and/or agreeing with Ross Douthat when I say that economic pressures have denuded the format so deeply that it’s no longer the dominant upper-middle-unibrow mode of artistic expression in this country.
ERIC: We’ve overplucked cinema’s brow.
STEVEN: It’s a 2000s meth arch now.
ERIC: And we all know those don’t grow back.
STEVEN: I saw The Lost City the other night and not only was it bad, but it cost $25 per ticket and there were 40 minutes of previews, half of which were just regular commercials. I endured ScrubDaddy ads while straight couples brandished their barcodes at each other, demanding everyone move to their assigned seats. Teens kept leaving to film TikTok choreo in the lobby. It was humiliating.
ERIC: Movies are dead because no one can pay attention.
STEVEN: Sorry I wasn’t listening. What did you say?
ERIC: Everyone just wants to be part of something. TikTok, movies, war. We crave communal chaos. So we just scroll and wait, hoping something interesting will happen but it never does.
Chris Rock makes a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head, prompting Will Smith to smack him on live television. Chaos ensues, on and off screen.
GAYS EN MASSE: Stop! Security! Not the slap! Slappage! Slappiana!
GAY GUY: I guess you can make fun of everything but Jada’s bald head.
STEVEN: Will said “alopecia rights.”
ERIC: Tonight was supposed to be about trichotillomania visibility.
Eric pulls his chin hair exasperatedly.
AMY SCHUMER: Did I miss something? I feel the vibe shifted in here.
ERIC’S EX: Score one for the vibe shift!
Eric pulls his facial hair more vigorously, now ripping off chunks of skin and tossing them onto the hors d'oeuvres plate. He stares blankly ahead.
STEVEN: Eric, are you all right? You’re bleeding.
ERIC: I hate violence.
GAY GUY: The takes on this are going to be crazy.
Eric pulls his beard hair so hard that he falls back and hits his head. He’s knocked unconscious.
INT. NEW YORK TIMES CENTER AUDITORIUM
STEPHEN, 34, in a tight button-down, and ERICH, also 34, in a black turtleneck, walk on stage to polite applause. On a screen projected behind them reads “Code of Conduct: Society After The Slap: Violence and Aggression in a Hole-arized America.”
ERICH: Violence is a slippery slope. An invisible barrier. When it broke, the masses went rabid. We crave violence! Hungry for a reprieve from the boredom of reality. In the film King Richard, the Williams sisters’ triumph was their escape from the violence of Compton. Tennis may be a slapfest, but from 78 feet — the codes of conduct create enough distance that violence becomes a thing of beauty. The sisters endured so much to escape that cycle. They never wanted this.
The audience of almost entirely white people claps respectfully.
STEPHEN: Sounds like you’ve never been hit in the face.
ERICH: I fell off my bike once.
STEPHEN: Pavement is not toxic masculinity.
ERICH: It depends on who poured the concrete.
STEPHEN: The liberati claim it’s violent for one man to slap another. But they choose to ignore all sorts of institutionalized violence. Imprisonment. Food insecurity. Loud construction outside your window.
The audience cheers approvingly.
ERICH: This is about celebrity worship. False idols. The Oscars are full of rules and decorum, only to maintain an illusion. The jester is allowed to joke — but only at the pleasure of the king. Will is a king. Jada is G.I. Jane.
STEPHEN: And I’m a eunuch, helping John Travolta don his robes in the antechamber.
ERICH: Perhaps Will was using exaggerated physicality so the CODA community could understand his anger.
STEPHEN: An act of inclusion, wrapped in a sheath of violence.
ERICH: Slapping is a universal language.
STEPHEN: There’s a clip going around of Will Smith saying he was motivated to get famous because he got cheated on once.
ERICH: And what is fame but a committed relationship to one’s self.
STEPHEN: And an open relationship with narcissism.
ERICH: And what is narcissism if not homosexuality.
STEPHEN: And what is homosexuality if not a betrayal of one’s wife.
ERICH: And what is one’s wife if not a betrayal of one’s homosexuality!
STEPHEN: To be homosexual is to be condemned as a potential object of your own desire, making “the lack” — that beautiful emptiness that drives longing itself — ironically less attainable. We might actually be what we want. And when we can actively see that we’re not? It’s terrifying.
ERICH: It’s hard to be ugly.
STEPHEN: Because you know it.
ERICH: This reminds me of a quote I heard in the recent documentary The Andy Warhol Diaries — “to be gay, you either have to be the stud or the freak.”
STEPHEN: So, either hot enough for Instagram, or mean enough for Twitter.
ERICH: A corporeal amalgam of dead-eyed selfies and lukewarm takes.
STEPHEN: That everyone gets mad at us for.
ERICH: Our 15 minutes of blame.
In the front row, a man starts heckling.
HECKLER: You guys think you’re so smart, huh? You have no idea what panels were like back in the ’70s. Provocative, perverted, pugnacious— the pulse of this city.
ERICH: They had panels in the ’70s?
STEPHEN: I think it was wood paneling. Very warm. Like a study.
HECKLER: You’re a disgrace! An embarrassment to the gays who came before you!
ERICH: Oh, that panel earlier today wasn’t gay. That was just a men’s fashion podcast.
Reaching his breaking point, the heckler removes his shoe and throws it at Erich. It hits Erich in the face, who crumples to the floor, unconscious.
INT. THE EVERARD BATHHOUSE, CHELSEA, 1979
STEVE and RICKY, two gay guys in their late 30s, undress in a dingy locker room. Ricky pulls at his chin hair while Steve examines a small black spot on his arm.
STEVE: Need to get that checked out.
RICKY: It’s probably a bruise from your masseuse.
STEVE: He did get pretty handsy. By the way, check out the polaroid Jeri Hall took of us at The Factory last night.
Pulls out polaroid and tosses to Ricky.
RICKY: Wow. Warhol found dead.
STEVE: Warhol found shot!
RICKY: Yeah, thank god they don’t allow women in here.
A particularly muscular adonis walks by.
STEVE: But they do allow guns.
RICKY: That’s Jed Johnson. Andy’s boyfriend.
STEVE: I'd like to Jed his Johnson.
RICKY: I heard it’s thick. Soup can vibes.
STEVE: Speaking of canned, what did you think of Andy’s new show at the Whitney?
RICKY: Whitney. The only woman I've been inside.
STEVE: The Times destroyed it — called it “debased and brutalized.” Kind of like my massage.
RICKY: I found it a bit derivative. It’s the financialization of art. Like how money has to have presidents on it to be worth something — Andy has to put Diana Ross on his paintings for people to like it.
STEVE: Someone’s mad they weren’t invited to the opening.
RICKY: It’s irresponsible. It’s excessive. It’s going to end in death.
STEVE: OK, very me at Studio 54 last night.
RICKY: I left early. I wasn’t feeling well.
STEVE: Something’s going around. God, I hope a pandemic doesn’t affect our community soon.
RICKY: Yeah, the world needs a steady supply of hot, bitchy gays.
STEVE: Who else will tell people their work sucks?
RICKY: I didn’t say his work sucked. I just think it’s getting repetitive. Like Jimmy Carter’s “aw shucks I’m a farmer” routine.
STEVE: Maybe it’s not repetitive enough. If he stuck with the soup cans everyone would think he’s a mad genius. Like Rodin sculpting Camille Claudel’s perfect tits over and over again.
Valerie Solanas enters.
RICKY: Speaking of tits.
STEVE: I thought it was men only.
VALERIE: Time for a regime change.
Valerie draws a pistol.
RICKY: No, Valerie! Why? What did we ever do to you?
VALERIE: You called my short film “unoriginal” in your Interview Magazine column.
STEVE: We write for Gawker now.
VALERIE: Even worse!
Valerie pulls the trigger. The bullet grazes Steven’s skull, sending him to the ground, unconscious.
INT. SUBWAY TUNNEL, KYIV, UKRAINE
Ерік (ERIK) and Стівен (STIVEN), both 34, clad in matching yellow and blue jockstraps, wander the city’s underground. We hear muffled gunfire in the distance.
ERIK: I’m starving.
STIVEN: Same. All I had today was a pierogi.
ERIK: I’m craving borscht.
STIVEN: UberEats isn’t working. There’s no service down here.
Киїм (KY’IM), a Ukrainian woman who strongly resembles Kim Kardashian, enters in a tattered Balenciaga gown clinging to her huge ass.
ERIK: Ooo, she looks knowledgeable. Let’s ask her where the buzzy eateries are.
STIVEN: Do you know any hole-in-the-wall spots around here?
ERIK: Not like with actual holes — it’s just an expression.
STIVEN: We’re looking for some super authentic Ukrainian food. Kind of like, “Parts Unknown” spots.
KY’IM: I have one piece of advice for you. Get your fucking ass up and fight. It seems like no one wants to fight these days.
ERIK: Oh, we’re American and gay. We don’t fight.
STIVEN: We just tweet.
ERIK: And go out to eat.
STIVEN: We’re on disability. I have alopecia.
ERIK: I also have a disorder. It’s called trichotillo—
KY’IM: Say no more. Really. Say no more.
Киїм leads Ерік and Стівен to a grimy door. She flings it open, revealing a giant stockroom of packaged treats, just like Khloe Kardahashian’s pantry in Calabasas. Just as the boys are about to dive in, Киїм slams the door shut.
KY’IM: Only if you agree to fight for Ukraine.
ERIK: I want to be a hero, but I’m just feeling so low energy.
STIVEN: I know what to do.
Стівен is suddenly holding a mic. Where did he get it? He climbs onto a stage. There is a brick wall behind him.
ERIK: Oh no. Stiven, wait. Read the room!
STIVEN: It’s fine, no one even speaks English.
ERIK: But they speak vibes.
Стівен launches into a standup set.
STIVEN: Putin’s injecting more troops into Ukraine than fillers into his face. And that’s a lot! They say the ruble is on the rebound. So is Putin’s gymnast girlfriend!
Suddenly, a loud explosion rattles the station. The ceiling caves in. Silhouetted by smoke, a hulking, bald figure appears.
ERIK: Wait, is that… Джада Пінкетт Сміт (Dzhada Pinkett Smit)?
STIVEN: No, that’s Kyiv’s mayor! Wladimir Klitschko. He dated Hayden Panettiere.
ERIK: No, his brother dated Hayden Panettiere.
STIVEN: He looks huge. He’ll know where we can find something to eat.
ERIK: Yum, I hope it’s a big warm Ukrainian sausage with sour cream.
Стівен sticks a finger in his mouth and walks over like a stupid little baby. Still holding the mic, he sings the entirety of “Happy Birthday Mr. President” but changes “President” to “Mayor.”
ERIK: Stiven, stop. It’s not as LGBTQ-friendly here as they say it is.
STIVEN: Hey Mr. Big Bad Mayor… is it true what they say about mayors of big cities?
KLITSCHKO: Keep my city’s name out of your fucking mouth.
Klitschko slaps Стівен across the face. Стівен’s teeth fly everywhere.
STIVEN: [unintelligible wailing].
ERIK: Oh my god. Your mouth! It’s just a hole… a talk hole!
KY’IM: In the future, everyone will have their 15 minutes of shame.
ERIK: Wait, did you watch the Warhol doc too?
KY’IM: Я проклинаю вас за те, що ви лайно публікуєте Україну.
ERIK: Sorry my Google translate doesn’t get reception down here.
KY’IM: I said you are an embarassment to the rich legacy of gay content creators in your home country.
ERIK: To be fair, most of them aren’t that rich. And Gore Vidal just had family money.
Ky’im rolls her eyes. Steven lies unconscious on the cold, Kyiv ground. Erik starts composing a tweet. “Ukraine is Chris Rock. Russia is Will Smith.” He deletes it, then types “Ukraine is a bottom. Russia is a top…”
INT. PROSPECT HEIGHTS APARTMENT, 2049.
The same gay guys are there but they’re old now. The host hands out cocktails to everyone.
HOST: Lost Daughters, all around.
GAY GUY: There’s a lot of Raytheon ads tonight.
OTHER GAY GUY: Shhh, Best Unoriginal Screenplay is almost up.
GAY GUY: Did anyone put Talk Hole on their ballot?
OTHER GAY GUY: Oh, I still haven’t seen it.
On the television, we see a cutaway of Talk Hole in the audience.
INT. OSCAR CEREMONY, BORED APE YACHT CLUB STADIUM, 2049
Steven and Eric have merged into one frankenstein being — half mouth (Talk), half ass (Hole), after Ky’im cast a spell on them. An aging Troye Sivan slaps Timothée Chalamet for reasons we will never know, then promptly walks off stage. Timothée regains his composure.
TIMOTHÉE: An original screenplay can excite us… too much. Leading to violence.
Crowd applauds. ANDY WARHOL enters as a hologram, emblazoned with the Marvel logo.
ANDY: An unoriginal screenplay can comfort us… reminding us of our shared humanity and the meaninglessness of life.
TIMOTHÉE: Here are the nominees for Best Unoriginal Screenplay.
Encanto: Why It’s Okay to Talk About Bruno
The Lost Daughter: We Found Her
Spiderthem: Into the Polyverse
Talk Hole: A Column To Remember
GI Jane: Alopecia’s Revenge
Dune: Drier than Ever
Drive My Electric Car
West Side Story, Again
ANDY: And the award goes to… Talk Hole.
Crowd cheers. Talk Hole human centipedes their way to the stage, taking the award from the Warhologram and swallowing it.
TALK: As the first Best Unoriginal Screenplay winners who are actually just two men sewed together, this is a huge win for our community.
TALK: It was just 27 short years ago that we were sitting in Prospect Heights watching the Oscars, when a slap changed the course of our entire lives.
HOLE: [Slower release of silent but deadly air].
TALK: It was at that moment we knew that life is too short to sit in the audience and watch someone insult your partner with a medical condition.
TALK: Every unoriginal thing we’ve done has led us to this moment. We stand here today not as victims, or survivors — but as people. Well, a person. Two half-people, I guess.
Hole begins to “cry.” Talk wipes their tears with toilet paper.
TALK: I’m sorry for getting emotional. It’s just.. we’re finally a part of something.
Music begins to play them off.
TALK: Okay, a few more people to thank! To our manag–
A buzzer sounds. Gun shots fire. Talk Hole falls to the ground. Dead. The crowd cheers. Standing ovation.
TIMOTHEE: Coming up.. Willow Smith receives the Lifetime Achievement Award.
ANDY: And don’t forget to catch Avengers: Infinity Warhol, in theaters this May.
Polite applause. Audience members head towards the bathroom for commercial break. Talk Hole’s body is carted away swiftly.
BACK IN BROOKLYN, PRESENT DAY
Eric wakes up.
ERIC: Oh my god I had a crazy dream…
STEVEN: Babe are you okay? Your trichotillomania is really getting out of hand. You pulled so hard you hit your head.
ERIC: Okay, I have an idea for how we can win an Oscar. We just have to write a screenplay.
STEVEN: Can’t we just adapt one? That sounds easier.
Previously on Talk Hole: Talk Hole: War Vibes.