WELCOME TO TALK HOLE, A MONTHLY TOPICAL CONVERSATION BETWEEN COMEDIANS ERIC SCHWARTAU AND STEVEN PHILLIPS-HORST.
ERIC: Have you Heard the news?
STEVEN: Yes, I just got an Amber alert.
ERIC: On your “Pirated” phone.
STEVEN: Looks like this “Rum Diary” is out of entries.
ERIC: It’s a win for the Depp state.
STEVEN: I can’t think of any Amber Heard movies to make puns about.
ERIC: That was the jury’s problem, too.
STEVEN: From what I understand, which is nothing, it seems Amber Heard was found guilty of defaming Johnny Depp, and Johnny Depp was found guilty of defaming Amber Heard.
ERIC: Sort of a mobius strip verdict.
STEVEN: Which confirms my impression of the American justice system as being extremely biased towards finding people guilty.
ERIC: We were founded by Puritans. A very guilty people.
STEVEN: They always say “innocent until proven guilty” but after watching the Staircase documentary, it’s now very clear to me that when you march a defendant into a courtroom, the jury is going to immediately look at their sad little face and go “oh he did it.”
ERIC: Walking into a courtroom is very hard to do without seeming guilty.
STEVEN: It’s like when your dog walks up to you sheepishly after chewing up your couch.
ERIC: My dog doesn’t chew up couches. That’s defamation.
STEVEN: Well, I Heard otherwise.
ERIC: This is why I fled Upstate.
STEVEN: I’m Downstate.
ERIC: Nice. I love the city. So many people! Hard to find parking though.
ERIC: News travels slowly up river. Can you fill me in?
STEVEN: They all say the same thing, which is that Dimes Square is a synonym for an anti-woke post-leftist Red Scare-adjacent ideology which involves being an alcoholic, specifically on Canal Street. But in Brooklyn, everyone is woke and buys IPAs from women-led stouteries and they think it’s bad to be in Chinatown. And also that Dimes Square is ending because it is being Nolita-fied.
ERIC: And Nolita has no political affiliation.
STEVEN: Exactly. The politics is just “sweatshirt and iced coffee.”
ERIC: It’s like that TikTok where the guy just goes to vinyl launches with various iced coffees and Negronis on tap.
STEVEN: Once the negroni is on tap, the podcasts disappear.
ERIC: It’s a delicate ecosystem. Podcasters can’t tolerate equal parts cocktails. They thrive on drinks with a little more bite — dirty martinis, vodka adderalls, tinned fish and soda.
STEVEN: The authors of all these Dimes Square articles clearly have an admiration for the cultural milieu they purport to hate, as do the subjects for their haters. There’s a mutually beneficial relationship to having haters.
ERIC: Why don’t we have any haters?
STEVEN: Because we’re not in Interview anymore, which had the illusion of a party you weren’t invited to.
ERIC: Whereas Gawker has the illusion of an office you are invited to.
STEVEN: We’ve never been invited.
ERIC: I said illusion.
STEVEN: Employers are just using the pandemic as an excuse for keeping their most toxic employees sequestered at home. In this case, us.
ERIC: I think I have monkeypox.
STEVEN: You are looking very hairy.
ERIC: I’m feeling a strong urge to shove bananas into my mouth.
STEVEN: Monkeypox… it’s a very antique-sounding disease. A huge turnaround from the highly technical, almost futuristic sounding “COVID-19.” Monkeypox is very 19th century.
ERIC: When we used to have sex with monkeys.
STEVEN: Before bestiality was outlawed.
ERIC: Everyone misspells bestiality. It’s the most misspelled word.
STEVEN: Actually I think privilege is the most misspelled word. Check your spell check privilege, Eric.
ERIC: Counterintuitively, there’s no “edge” in privilege.
STEVEN: I think we’re so afraid of monkeys because we see ourselves in them. They’re our id laid bare. Sex-crazed, violent, fun-loving, mischievous, power-hungry. Just flinging their own shit at each other.
ERIC: That’s also my Grindr bio.
STEVEN: As we know, it seems to be affecting gay men first and foremost.
ERIC: Because we crave experience.
STEVEN: So do straight people, but they just go to Escape Rooms.
ERIC: A sauna is an escape room in many ways.
STEVEN: Monkeypox is just going where the action is. A hammer wants a nail.
ERIC: And gay men are the nails?
STEVEN: Rusty, cheap, and addicted to getting pounded.
ERIC: Gay men always gentrify the diseases. They get there first. Clean them up a little. Add some character. All of the sudden it’s gone from Monkeypox to MoPo.
STEVEN: I wonder if gays were ground zero for the Bubonic plague too.
ERIC: Oh you mean BuBoPla?
STEVEN: A one-bedroom in BuBoPla is going for four pounds of silver. Highway robbery!
ERIC: This is why people move to Hudson.
STEVEN: So they’ll have less sex with monkeys.
ERIC: So they can ride out the plague with overpriced vintage furniture.
STEVEN: A pox on both your houses!
ERIC: That line was originally about vacation homes.
STEVEN: Right, Romeo was jealous that Juliet’s family had beach access.
ERIC: It’s time for a Pox Americana.
STEVEN: A period of relative stability after all the gays die of monkeypox.
ERIC: No more Drag Race, can you imagine?
STEVEN: No more regional theater.
ERIC: We could finally achieve world peace.
STEVEN: Ukraine and Russia lay down their arms.
ERIC: And then quickly panic as their OnlyFans subscriber base dries up.
STEVEN: I’m just glad that I’m dating someone now so I don’t have to dip my toe in the diseased sex pool, lest my craven desire for loose dick send me to the monkeypox infirmary.
ERIC: All it takes is one horny little trip down to the baths in MoPo and suddenly you and your upstate fiance are popping each other’s monkey pustules.
STEVEN: It made me think of the gay men who got into a relationship right before AIDS really took hold. They made it out just in time.
ERIC: But in some ways they also died. The big farm upstate in the sky.
STEVEN: When I was in the Russian River Valley recently, which is the upstate of San Francisco, I met a gay rights activist who was telling me he moved there in the early ’90s thinking he was going to die of AIDS. But then he didn’t. And now he has a much younger boyfriend.
ERIC: How To Survive A Plague? Get a younger boyfriend.
STEVEN: Younger boyfriends are the canaries in the coal mine of plagues.
ERIC: They start screeching when disaster is coming.
STEVEN: And they’re small and get cold easily.
ERIC: When I was talking to a Russian divorcee at tennis camp upstate, which is the upstate of upstate, she told me that an Israeli guy she went on a date with was telling her that real estate is the best investment. So your gay rights activist friend and his boyfriend are sitting on a little canary’s nest egg with that property.
STEVEN: A Russian divorcee told you that an Israeli straight guy told her to invest in real estate? I could’ve told you that.
ERIC: I think she needs to invest in a new Hinge profile.
STEVEN: The point is, you should only be single between plagues.
ERIC: Exactly. This Russian divorcee better russ-h to the altar then if monkeypox is coming her way.
STEVEN: I saw a lot of Ukrainian flags when I was in the Russian River Valley. Seemed like they were really trying to compensate.
ERIC: The Russians actually got pretty far down the Pacific coast back in the day. They were just chasing that Beaver fur further and further south. Those were the good old days of territorial conquest.
STEVEN: You can’t get monkeypox chasing beaver.
ERIC: That’s for dam sure.
STEVEN: Are we in a new age of plagues or is it media sensationalism?
ERIC: I think the covid variants aren’t getting clicks anymore. Monkeypox sounds like something I want to read about.
STEVEN: Like moths to the flame…
ERIC: …we flock to the pox.
STEVEN: Jane Goodall warned us about getting too close to monkeys. She said “look but don’t touch.”
ERIC: And now we’ve been very bad-all. So we’re being punished.
STEVEN: I’m going to pun-ish you for that bad-all pun.
ERIC: Don’t dox me for my pox talk!
STEVEN: It’s time for a Dox Americana.
ERIC: Where we reveal everyone’s passwords, and the empire finally crumbles.
STEVEN: It does feel very Rome right now. Our territorial expansion is an all time high, but things are falling apart.
ERIC: I heard we’re going to make Ukraine the 51st state.
A one-bedroom in BuBoPla is going for four pounds of silver.
STEVEN: Puerto Rico cast aside again.
ERIC: Forever America’s neglected stepchild.
STEVEN: Not now sweetie, daddy’s sending arms to the world’s bread basket.
ERIC: Maybe instead of sending $40 billion of weapons to Ukraine, we should buy back assault rifles from incels and send them instead.
STEVEN: We should send incels to Ukraine?
ERIC: Like the opposite of a Russian mail-order bride. We send incels to Eastern Europe.
STEVEN: Might be more expedient than gun control.
ERIC: We should draft 18-to-25 men just to stop them from shooting up elementary schools and grocery stores.
STEVEN: But they do mass shootings in the military too.
ERIC: So maybe they have to go to a gay ski/tennis/sauna retreat for six years instead.
STEVEN: Where they gain herd immunity to monkeypox.
ERIC: Isn’t that what college is supposed to be? A holding pen for hormonal teens who aren’t ready to walk around society yet?
STEVEN: Yes, but our society isn’t walkable.
ERIC: And college isn’t affordable.
STEVEN: There’s a connection there.
ERIC: And college is expensive because of gas prices?
STEVEN: Yes, and all the hot air it takes to gas up professor’s egos.
ERIC: It’s funny, people love public school teachers but they hate college professors.
STEVEN: That’s because our college professors were the objects of our unrequited horniness, whereas our elementary school teachers were just pleasantly chaste.
ERIC: Speak for yourself. I was horny in elementary school.
STEVEN: So. Mass shootings.
ERIC: Well, they’re happening and have been happening.
STEVEN: Can we state the obvious?
ERIC: It’s the guns.
STEVEN: You know, when the vikings were invading England in the 9th century, no one said “oh, it’s the axes.”
ERIC: Can we go one column without you mentioning the Vikings?
STEVEN: At the same time, if blacksmiths had been required to do a background check, I bet things would’ve been a lot more pleasant for Saxon villagers.
ERIC: The problem was cultural though. Men, honor, warrior stuff. Feeling like you need to kill Saxons to be a tough guy.
STEVEN: I think our problem is cultural, too.
ERIC: Too much culture.
STEVEN: Not enough culture!
ERIC: Not enough columns.
STEVEN: The men who commit school shootings all grow up in an atomized, rudderless environment surrounded by militarized police forces. They are not exposed to different ideas and different people, to movies at Metrograph, to gay columns, to Medicaid-funded therapists, to pierced baristas. So what fills that vacuum? In the case of the Buffalo shooter 4Chan racism, in the case of other shooters, boredom, misogyny, nihilism —
ERIC: And guns.
STEVEN: Yes, and AR-15s. It’s a specific alchemy that only exists in America.
ERIC: Alchemy feels like a very medieval word. I want you to leave 9th-century England.
STEVEN: What’s a more contemporary choice? Formula?
ERIC: Yes, very topical, with all the baby formula in low supply due to supply chain issues caused by the war in Ukraine and China’s COVID policies.
STEVEN: Speaking of babies, Roe v. Wade.
ERIC: We’re gonna need even more formula now.
STEVEN: So which side are you on?
Are we in a new age of plagues or is it media sensationalism?
ERIC: I think Roe. I love caviar.
STEVEN: Same, and I think it should be available on demand.
ERIC: Yes, eggs should be removed from the body safely. Then eaten.
STEVEN: Life begins on the plate.
ERIC: Wade a minute! Don’t eat those, I’m saving them for when I’m more established in my career.
STEVEN: Roe, roe, roe your boat, gently up the corporate ladder.
ERIC: If children came out as eggs, that would solve this whole issue.
STEVEN: Some sharks do that.
ERIC: And as you know, abortion rights are not a hot-button issue in the shark community.
STEVEN: Life begins in the ocean.
ERIC: Life begins when you move to New York City.
STEVEN: Why don’t liberals just say “sure, life begins at conception.”
ERIC: Really stick it to the Catholics.
STEVEN: And guess what? We still think people should be able to have sex without being forced to have a baby. That’s more important than the life of a microscopic embryo.
ERIC: I think what liberals need is their version of Mitch McConnell.
STEVEN: As a gay man with the ability to get HIV, I am deeply grateful for the advent of PReP and anti-retrovirals, which means I can fuck unprotected without fear and poz guys can as well. I think straight women should be able to do that too.
ERIC: 100 percent agree. Straight women should be able to go to sex parties.
STEVEN: It feels ominous that we’re having the same exact culture war discussions for decades. Abortion? Now? Still?
ERIC: It’s an economic and political game. Control and corral the demographics that are problematic to your goals via restrictive laws.
STEVEN: Speaking of economics, is the economy bad right now?
ERIC: It’s mid.
STEVEN: No, it’s good. I just bought the dip.
ERIC: Which one?
STEVEN: A tangy local hummus with dividends.
ERIC: I was just at Davos (Hudson), and everyone is talking about inflation.
STEVEN: Well, people at an economic forum (a coffee shop) need something to talk about. Let’s look at the indicators — employment is relatively high, and so are wages. That’s good.
ERIC: But there is a wage price spiral.
STEVEN: Right, that’s when wages are spiraling about how much attention prices are getting.
ERIC: “Ugh, everyone likes prices!”
STEVEN: Miss Wage, sitting alone in her cordoned off bank account, refreshing her latest selfie for likes.
ERIC: I heard that travel stocks are up and home improvement stocks are down.
STEVEN: Restaurants are packed.
ERIC: The American consumer is going outside.
STEVEN: They are eating, but also moving.
ERIC: Unless they are driving to where they’re eating.
STEVEN: But they are also taking planes. Presumably to places where they might go swimming, or ziplining.
ERIC: Or to places where they are sitting on the beach on their phones.
STEVEN: Or just ordering Uber Eats to their beach cabana.
ERIC: Well, then the Uber Eats guy is moving.
STEVEN: You do burn more calories biking on the beach.
ERIC: I just think there’s no narrative right now. That’s what we’ve lost with Trump out of office. He was always like “Things are great! Loving the stocks! Keep buying!”
STEVEN: Right and Biden is like, “Well listen Mac. Inflation is real, but so is the bank. And you can tell that to Wall Street.” Not that I agree or disagree, but we’ve lost some of the simplicity in messaging.
ERIC: We need a storyteller-in-chief.
STEVEN: I want to briefly storytell that I recently found out my great-grandfather was from Odessa.
ERIC: How convenient for your narrative.
STEVEN: I know. Now I just need an aunt who was a monkey.
ERIC: Aunt Lucy!
STEVEN: Make no bones about it. There’s something very not body positive about being the world’s most famous skeleton.
ERIC: Skinny legend but she died young.
STEVEN: She was 16 years old. That was old back then.
ERIC: And it’s still old according to TikTok.
STEVEN: Did you know Lucy was discovered in the Afar depression, Ethiopia?
ERIC: Afar depression. Poor girl. Good thing we have SSRIs now.
STEVEN: Just think of what Lucy could’ve done if she’d had Wellbutrin. Launched an earthenware line.
ERIC: Pottery makes great therapy.
STEVEN: And so does column-writing.
ERIC: And so does column-ending.
STEVEN: See you at Davos.
Previously on Talk Hole: Talk Hole: If You Musk Know