WELCOME TO TALK HOLE, A MONTHLY TOPICAL CONVERSATION BETWEEN COMEDIANS ERIC SCHWARTAU AND STEVEN PHILLIPS-HORST.
ERIC: I smell something.
STEVEN: It’s eau de Musk, permeating the Twitterverse.
ERIC: Too much cologne is harassment.
STEVEN: Not anymore, snowflake.
ERIC: Is free smell protected under the constitution?
STEVEN: I think Elon’s free-speech crusade is a little overblown. Just because liberals put Ukraine flags in their bio doesn’t mean your views are being “censored.” You can still say anything you want on Twitter. You can post dick!
ERIC: And hole, depending on the lighting.
STEVEN: Except for that one time I got put in Twitter jail for calling Ron*n Farr*w a “f*ggot.”
Maybe I am a free-speech warrior.
ERIC: See, the real problem is only the blue checks are protected. And only slander against them is censored.
STEVEN: It wasn’t slander. He is literally gay.
ERIC: There’s a war being waged over what we can say. Blue checks have claimed most of cringe territory. But the based provinces are still up for grabs.
STEVEN: Azealia is a POW.
ERIC: Chrissy Teigen is a self-conscientious objector.
STEVEN: And criticizing Tesla is now a war crime.
ERIC: People just don’t want an evil billionaire to buy Twitter.
STEVEN: They’d prefer a good billionaire, like Warren Buffett.
ERIC: Or Rihanna.
STEVEN: Can’t wait to get rihtweeted.
ERIC: I can’t tell if Twitter is dying, or if I’m dying on Twitter.
STEVEN: Much like an aging lithium battery in a Tesla, you get less mileage out of every charge — and less likes out of every tweet.
ERIC: Maybe Elon could add a self-driving mode to my account.
STEVEN: A lot of comedy Twitter already seems to be on autopilot.
ERIC: I think Elon just wants to buy Twitter because it makes him money.
STEVEN: True. All his wealth comes from speculative stock manipulation, which is driven by his notoriety, which is driven by Twitter.
ERIC: Well he also inherited his father’s diamond mine.
STEVEN: And Twitter’s previous largest shareholder was a Saudi prince.
ERIC: From one extractive industry to another.
STEVEN: A content oil well, gushing take after take.
ERIC: We’re being drilled until we run dry.
STEVEN: I wanna talk about global warming.
ERIC: That’s so Gen Z of you. I’ve actually felt cold lately.
STEVEN: That’s because you’re 35 now. Happy birthday. The body starts shutting down.
ERIC: This column is aging me.
STEVEN: Global warming is bad and the only way to stop it — or so I’ve read — is through de-growth. Like all the things that people wanna do, like buy Teslas and charge carbon taxes on your plane trips or whatever like won’t make a difference if we keep expanding the economy.
ERIC: So this is why you’re going on vacation to Panama?
STEVEN: Just trying to get in one last flight before I start de-growing.
ERIC: I’m having a mid-life crisis. I just went to a sleepaway tennis camp.
STEVEN: Mid-life crisis. Climate crisis. Maybe the Earth is just spiritually 35.
ERIC: She’s definitely had some work done.
STEVEN: She got glacial resurfacing all across North America.
ERIC: She looks good but her Himalayas could use some filler.
STEVEN: Well, India needs to stop pushing on them. She’s only making it worse.
ERIC: That’s true. They always say you’re supposed to apply geological change in gentle circles on your subcontinent so your tectonic plates don’t crash together.
STEVEN: Thank god she got that Pangea lasered off, though. Unsightly!
ERIC: You can barely tell. They didn’t realize Africa and South America used to be connected for a long time.
STEVEN: I’m worried about desertification. She’s getting very dry and patchy.
ERIC: She needs to focus on moisture retention. There’s this really good Korean cloud-seeding brand she should try.
STEVEN: K-climate is the new carbon capture.
ERIC: And a good highlighter helps reflect light and reduces surface temperatures.
STEVEN: And this is also why we need to preserve the ice caps.
ERIC: Yeah, if Earth doesn’t wear them after showering her hair will get super wiry.
STEVEN: We need to talk about degrowth as the only viable solution to slowing climate change. I think it’s good to make “growth” the enemy because the word “capitalism” is rapidly becoming meaningless.
ERIC: People think capitalism means like, wearing clothes or having coffee.
STEVEN: People are always like “ugh I have to go to work. Capitalism sucks!” As if there were no jobs before capitalism.
ERIC: No one complained during feudalism. They loved their jobs.
STEVEN: It seems like nobody wants to pay tithes to the monastery these days. Get off your fucking ass and pay your monestary tithes!
ERIC: The Kardashians are ripe for a feudal rebrand. They’re all about loyalty and bloodlines. Which is something I yearn for as a rotted gay branch of my own family tree.
STEVEN: Kendall also seems to be a dead end.
ERIC: Ok, we’re outing Kendall. You love an outing!
STEVEN: Going out is a great way to have without necessarily consuming more. It’s growth neutral.
ERIC: Not based on the way I’ve seen you slurp down blistered shishitos.
STEVEN: But I‘m not consuming more shishitos each week. It’s a steady rate of shishito.
ERIC: Steven, no one’s going to get behind the concept of de-growth because no one actually wants to give up their lifestyle.
STEVEN: I’m just gonna put this in here for now. It’s a little link to an article about de-growth. Just a tiny little link.
ERIC: I’ll def check it out. Thanks for sharing.
STEVEN: And in general, I think we can do with less of a lot of things and people won’t be upset. Big houses, SUVs, arms dealing.
ERIC: This is why feudalism was good for the environment. Only one family gets to have lots of stuff because you’ve convinced everyone else they’ll get it in heaven if they work hard.
STEVEN: One family gets home ownership.
ERIC: We all live within the Kardashians’ walled city.
STEVEN: The Fortress of Calabasas.
ERIC: The Cali-phate. Like California…
STEVEN: You love a dot dot dot.
STEVEN: I find it very… lugubrious. It takes so long. I wanna keep moving. There’s land to till. Tithes to pay.
ERIC: It took me so long to get past you saying “lugubrious.”
STEVEN: I honestly don’t even know what it means. But it sounds very laborious. Maybe that’s what I wanted to say.
ERIC: It sounds like some kind of luxurious labor.
STEVEN: Like weaving a very expensive rug. An Armenian rug.
ERIC: Ok here’s the reason I wanted to talk about Kardashians: they said they were done with the show. But then they announced they were moving to Hulu. Like the walls around a castle, their show protects them. They need it to maintain power. An army of production assistants. Protection through propaganda. It’s how they hold onto power.
STEVEN: I read Dan D’Addario’s review of it in Variety. And before you ask, no, I have not seen the show, but I agreed with his review. He says the plot is still them trying to prove themselves. Trying to be legitimate, worried about who’s coming after them, etc. But they’ve outgrown that obviously. Kim and Kris are basically politicians, Kylie is a business mogul. They need to degrow.
ERIC: This is why their next medium should be monarchy, which is all about decay.
STEVEN: The medium is the monarchy.
ERIC: Their Wikipedia page has a full family tree, just like the British royals.
STEVEN: Time to get koronated.
ERIC: The future is female feudalism!
STEVEN: We all owe military service to Lord Kris.
ERIC: But at least their PA’s will pay us tithes.
STEVEN: I just saw a chart about OK Cupid attractiveness. I think it implies straight women see men as ugly by default. Whereas straight men see women as like, medium fuckable as the default.
ERIC: I think I’m not allowed to say this but isn’t that just because men are more horny?
STEVEN: Or maybe the men on OK Cupid are just less hot.
ERIC: OK Cupid definitely seems like a dating backwater.
STEVEN: Women are powering the degrowth movement by not being interested in men.
ERIC: Or by saying most men are unattractive, women are motivating them to buy stuff to make up for their lack of physical attractiveness. More electric hummers, more home brew kits, more his-and-hers PlayStation 5 controllers.
STEVEN: Oh, fuck. You’re right. Women need to start being more attracted to borderline- personality disorder OKCupid men, otherwise they’re just fueling the destruction of the planet by forcing men to consume their way to attractiveness.
ERIC: Or let those BPD bloodlines bleed out.
STEVEN: But wait. Aren’t electric cars good?
ERIC: Electric cars are a cornucopia of precious metals mined from all over the globe. They require new factories, new roads, new mines, new workers, new resource wars; all so tech bros can insider trade while their self-driving Tesla runs over a toddler.
STEVEN: My parents just bought an electric car.
ERIC: Well, at least you’ll inherit one. Recycle, reduce, reuse.
STEVEN: And with the shillings I make from selling it I can finally leave the walls of Calabasas and buy my own land.
ERIC: If I never get to own property, at least I’ll reach the Zion of Zillow when I die.
STEVEN: And the owner of Gawker is also a billionaire, maybe.
ERIC: But he’s the good kind. A benevolent kind. The kind that pays us tithes.
STEVEN: I just read this insane article that he (Bryan Goldberg, CEO of BDG Media which owns Gawker) purchased a hat worn by Napoleon for $1.4 million at auction.
ERIC: In the grand scheme of things that’s not a lot of money.
STEVEN: It’s only about a thousand Talk Hole columns.
ERIC: Wasn’t Napoleon canceled?
STEVEN: He’s the original short king. A protected class. He can’t be canceled.
ERIC: Right, he’s a victim. He’s patient zero of an entire complex!
STEVEN: And I’ve got zero patience for your puns.
ERIC: That wasn’t a pun.
STEVEN: Et un pun, c’est quoi ça?
ERIC: A pun would be if I were like, Napole-don’t call me short because I’ve gotta Bona-pick with you.
STEVEN: That Napoleon Dyna-might be a pun.
ERIC: I love language.
STEVEN: And I love drama. Let’s talk about Ukraine. The war just got renewed for another season.
ERIC: Apparently the Donbas pivot is about embracing traditional war tactics. Big, wide open battlefield. Golden fields of wheat flattened by tank treads and marred by trenches and barbed wire. Global food shortage subplot. Death, destruction, devastation, drama.
STEVEN: It’s a trad war.
ERIC: Yeah, the LGBTQ+ fighters are sitting this one out. They are hacking Russian satellites from basements in Lviv instead, which is equally valid!
STEVEN: The U.S. is fighting a proxy war with Russia, sending billions in artillery. I was very moved by this speech by Clare Daly, an Irish member of EU parliament who was saying that continuing to send weapons will only result in more destruction. More deaths. More war.
ERIC: The domestic infrastructure bill money went to destroying another country’s instead.
STEVEN: Noam Chomsky also said we should be prioritizing a diplomatic solution over Ukraine. Or, I think that’s what he said. I didn’t really listen to it because it can be hard to follow what old people are saying. I just don’t love all the weapons. And flooding a region with weapons is never good — look at what’s happened in the Middle East, Afghanistan, etc. Those machine guns will just be there forever now.
ERIC: This is why we need biodegradable weapons. War should be good for the environment.
STEVEN: Well, Russia just cut off the gas supply to Poland and Bulgaria.
ERIC: A win for renewables.
STEVEN: Unless Russia erects a big, beautiful wall to cut off their wind supply.
ERIC: Maybe the U.S. could ship Bulgaria some sunlight.
STEVEN: Energy debate is really liberating. I don’t have to think about myself anymore!
ERIC: Yes, enough with the navel gazing. Make politics global again!
STEVEN: I saw a guy on the street the other day selling fan posters of Zelensky next to ones of DMX. $10 each.
ERIC: And we’re back to the self. I’m imagining those posters on my freshman year roommate’s dorm wall. He was from Massachusetts but joined the IDF for six months before college. Great abs, bad politics.
STEVEN: They were pretty small. 8 ½ x 11. Wouldn’t really make an impact on a dorm wall.
ERIC: But they would make a huge impact on social media. This is sadly why the poster market is degrowing.
STEVEN: This is why we need physical media. Buy one piece of art that lasts, instead of shitty art you have to buy every two years.
ERIC: That’s why our boss bought the Napoleon hat.
STEVEN: It’s still a working hat!
ERIC: They don’t make ‘em like they used to.
STEVEN: Why expend billions of cubic feet of carbon shipping adjustable five-panel Yupoong dad hats in bulk from China when there’s a perfectly good beaver-fur bicorne at Sotheby’s?
ERIC: The carbon footprint of your podcast merch is probably higher than Napoleon’s.
STEVEN: That’s because he had tiny feet.
ERIC: Small feet, big dreams.
STEVEN: I wanna talk about something cultural. Like take some sort of banal quotidien thing and then surface some really interesting observations about identity and desire and how we interact with society, elucidating some sharp-witted philosophical riff out of an anodyne moment that most people overlook.
ERIC: Cultural… it’s not ringing a bell.
STEVEN: What about how cacio e pepe is on every menu now? How every restaurant wants to show off their embrace of simplicity, and every diner falls for it. We all think it’s so interesting to “notice” the pepper, the pillowyness of the noodle. But the reality is most restaurants are doing a wildly mediocre job, and you’re stuck pretending to notice the pepper while paying $22 for glorified Annie’s Mac & Cheese.
ERIC: I think you already tweeted that.
STEVEN: What about this: I went to the doctor this week.
ERIC: This feels more promising.
STEVEN: Whenever I’m at the doctor, I always have to perform this precise level of anxiety and professionalism. To stoke concern but not dismissal. I even do it with my outfits: something respectable but just a tad unkempt. She can’t think I’m just a crazy hypochondriac, but I still want her to believe I need care.
ERIC: Every time I go to the doctor I am auditioning for the role of patient.
STEVEN: Your legitimacy is always on the line.
ERIC: You could always be passed over for a younger talent.
STEVEN: So you have to submit to their authority. And of course you want to be the interesting yet manageable patient — the one with the easily curable condition that nonetheless satisfies the doctor’s House urge. That lets them feel brilliant. So they can be like “ahhh yes, you have an itchy elbow and you were sad three weeks ago. It’s Calabasian syndrome. You need to stop drinking oat milk and switch to macadamia.”
ERIC: You need something out of them. And I’m sure they feel pressure to prescribe you anti-oat bloat medication so you feel validated and seen.
STEVEN: Exactly. You want your money’s worth. Medicaid doesn’t grow on trees.
ERIC: Well this was a great cultural discussion, if by culture you meant a lab sample.
STEVEN: I think this column is going great so far. There’s a great mix of chunky sections and lighter fare. Chunk and light. It’s giving canned tuna.
ERIC: Somebody’s hungry. I wanna talk about something now.
STEVEN: I didn’t say anything in response to your previous quip. You can’t just steamroll on ahead.
ERIC: Every bite of column needs different textures and flavors. People have a lot of Steven on their plate right now, but they are missing a binding agent.
STEVEN: A binding agent. Like a transmasc CIA operative?
ERIC: I was referring to myself but I will hold space for people of espionage experience.
STEVEN: Should I do any spying while I’m in Panama?
ERIC: Well, they already found the Papers.
STEVEN: What they needed was a shredder. I’d bring one but I don’t want to check a bag.
ERIC: You should check on the canal. I hear there are some supply chain issues.
STEVEN: Maybe she just needs a little lubrication? I can bring WD-40.
ERIC: I don’t think aerosols are allowed in your carry-on. Maybe the canal just needs to be flushed out.
STEVEN: With the world’s largest Fleet™.
ERIC: And a little Swiss Navy.
STEVEN: I would hope it’s little. Switzerland’s landlocked.
ERIC: So small you can put it in your carry-on.
STEVEN: I love how comedic this column is.
ERIC: It’s new for us.
STEVEN: I was doing research on Wikipedia about Panama, because I’m a firm believer in informed vacationing. Did you know the U.S. propped up their right-wing dictator Noriega throughout the ’80s then decided to violently take him out when he no longer was serving our interests? We bombed Panama and 2,000 people died. This was like, in our lifetime.
ERIC: This sounds like a woke travel influencer’s TikTok script.
STEVEN: It is very TikTok to just read a Wikipedia page out loud.
ERIC: Wikipedia gets a bad rap. We were taught not to cite it in school. It’s so brave of you to admit it’s the primary source of your knowledge.
STEVEN: I guess it’s incredibly facile of me to bring up for the thousandth time that the U.S. is not a moral actor on the world stage.
ERIC: In eighth grade, before Wikipedia existed, I wrote a paper about the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua. I won a literary prize of $20, I believe.
STEVEN: That’ll go a long way in Nicaragua.
ERIC: In eighth-grade dollars, that could have bought me some friends and I wouldn’t have had to spend so much time on that paper to impress my teacher.
STEVEN: I’m excited to bring American money to Panama. They just use ours. Isn’t that convenient?
ERIC: I also use dollars. It’s super easy.
STEVEN: I love ATMs. Let’s have a really interesting conversation about how using an ATM is a furtive moment of public secrecy. Every beep is a signal to strangers around you: how much money you have, how much money you want, the pathetic little PIN numbers that you’ve chosen to represent you. It’s reductive. It’s humiliating. And yet thrilling! You could be a pauper or a millionaire and no one knows.
ERIC: They’re always asking me to cover my PIN. It makes me feel like a spy.
STEVEN: I love seeing the receipts in the vestibule at the bank and discovering how much balance people have. It’s always like $700, or maybe $2,850. But it’s rarely something scandalous like $21 or $135,000. Those are the fun ones.
ERIC: I don’t see a lot of paper receipts these days. That’s progress.
ERIC: Let’s degrow this column.
STEVEN: Would that mean ending it? Or publishing it less often?
ERIC: Let’s send it to our editor and let her decide.
STEVEN: Perfect. Leah, the fate of the economy is your hands.
ERIC: I wonder if Leah will get to wear the Napoleon hat.
STEVEN: Maybe if this column goes viral.
ERIC: We better start over.
Previously on Talk Hole: Talk Hole: Best Unoriginal Screenplay.