Talk Hole: Out of Office
Two gay guys discuss monkeypox, pickleball, and Gawker's one-year anniversary.
WELCOME TO TALK HOLE, A MONTHLY TOPICAL CONVERSATION BETWEEN COMEDIANS ERIC SCHWARTAU AND STEVEN PHILLIPS-HORST.
ERIC: I haven’t seen or read or done anything besides play tennis and go on vacation.
STEVEN: Out-of-office vibes. Did you see the Zelensky Vogue photoshoot?
ERIC: I did. I guess I have seen things.
STEVEN: I loved it. It was very Talk Hole. Very, “let’s take a topic, center ourselves in the narrative, and do it for a magazine that’s actually just a website.”
ERIC: In the age of video, of the reel, of the constant live Twitch, there’s something inherently funny about choosing the medium of photography. It’s such a museum artifact.
STEVEN: Photography is kitsch now by definition.
ERIC: It’s very deliberate. Slow media.
STEVEN: I mean, it used to take forever to take a photo. With all the gunpowder! This is a return to form.
ERIC: But now you can’t bring gunpowder on set.
STEVEN: Thank you, Alec Baldwin.
ERIC: Apparently Instagram changed something but I haven’t noticed. People are up in arms. Kylie and Kim posted some sort of sad, chain-letter saying they “just want to see photos of their friends.”
STEVEN: My understanding is that Kylie is upset that there’s so many reels. It makes her nauseous on her short flights.
ERIC: Maybe she shouldn’t sit in the front row.
STEVEN: I think the front of the plane is actually less nauseous — because you’re farther from the bathrooms.
ERIC: I think that’s only on a bus…
STEVEN: Oh my god. I just realized the rationale behind the name Airbus.
ERIC: I was making a reference to sitting in the front row of a movie theater making you nauseous but it didn’t land.
STEVEN: Unlike most planes!
ERIC: Right. It’s important to acknowledge the planes that do land safely. They don’t get enough press.
STEVEN: Because of environmental concerns, I’ve been trying to fly only when it’s necessary for my mental health — once a month, and only for vacation.
ERIC: Technically you have to fly twice if you go somewhere.
STEVEN: No, I take a ferry back. I’m trying to re-center the sea in travel discourse.
ERIC: I took an Easyjet recently in Milan and I was really disgruntled because they pack you in like tinned fish. But then I flew Neos from New York to Milan, and I loved it so much I didn’t even sleep.
STEVEN: Neos? Sounds like a cryptocurrency.
ERIC: And yet it didn’t crash. It’s a new airline. It means “new” in some language.
STEVEN: The language of travel.
ERIC: Which is also the language of homosexuality.
STEVEN: And monkeypox.
[ERIC’s dog, OPAL, barks wildly.]
[OPAL obediently shuffles into a corner. She is quiet momentarily.]
STEVEN: Wow, she just goes over to where her crate used to be?
ERIC: Yes, the word evokes the memory of the crate. Language is so interesting.
STEVEN: All words can ever really do is evoke a memory.
ERIC: Opal’s barking is evoking me re-homing her.
STEVEN: Tell me about Italy. What’s the scene report? I hear it’s hot. Was there a recession? War? Any new plagues?
ERIC: Well, as you may have heard, the dollar is really strong against the euro.
STEVEN: Right. The euro used to be this stern, no-nonsense Swiss businessman to the dollar’s delinquent teen. But now the euro is this lithe, flouncy little damsel, lollygagging about the café, ordering one glass of Sancerre then idling for six hours. Then the big, muscular dollar comes in, reeking of ball sweat, Axe body spray and gasoline, and orders the lobster to go.
ERIC: Speaking of gasoline, it only cost me seven euro to fill up my moped in Naples.
STEVEN: So Biden’s doing something right.
ERIC: He’s not the president of Italy.
STEVEN: With a couple more facelifts, he could get there.
ERIC: Can we talk about the girl we saw last night at Carmelo’s in Bushwick who ordered a White Claw?
STEVEN: That was horrifying. Just going to a bar to drop $5 on a White Claw! That is a death knell for society. White Claw is supposed to be a punishment. It’s what you drink because there is no other option — it’s cold and available at a deli, and it feels lighter and more alcoholic than beer but without the hassle and cost of wine or a mixed drink. It’s a category filler. Not a choice you should be making at a bar where they can make you an actual drink! What havoc has the chemically laden food industry wreaked on Gen Z’s tastebuds that they would opt for White Claw over a negroni?
ERIC: This is why I love Italy. If she had ordered that White Claw in Italia, they would have served it in a small glass with a straw and some olives and an espresso. It would elevate the whole experience no matter how putrid the drink. Not that I ever saw a White Claw in Italy.
STEVEN: And I pray you never do. Did you have sex in Italy?
ERIC: It’s a very horny nation behind all that Catholic shame.
STEVEN: That’s why it’s horny.
ERIC: I did discover some ancient cruising grounds in Puglia.
STEVEN: I’m picturing the Romans just shuffling around the bushes in a toga and sandals.
ERIC: Toga seems like you’d have easier access. Just lift up and go.
STEVEN: I disagree. Pants are kind of the classic on/off vehicle. With a toga — depending on the weight and fabric choice, which of course depends on your status in the polity — you might be digging around for a while. Jacking someone one off with this sheet bobbing around? Or maybe you just toss it over the other guy’s head? Then you’re jacking off a ghost.
ERIC: Pants get caught around your ankles and you don’t want to take your pants all the way off. Then you’re just… naked.
STEVEN: I see your point. Gladiator sandals stay ON during sex. Then you can run a marathon if you need to.
ERIC: The classic fuck-or-flight response.
STEVEN: Sounds like you had a great time OOO.
ERIC: I hate office lingo, specifically OOO. That your time away can be reduced to an HR acronym.
STEVEN: OOO is very ghost-like. Which circles back to the toga.
ERIC: Which can also protect you against monkeypox at crowded dance parties.
STEVEN: The office lingo I’m fascinated by is the war and violence metaphors. When people don’t want to participate in a conversation any longer they say they’re “tapping out” like in wrestling. I recently heard “Save my bullets” to refer to not asking someone to do something. It’s like we’re yearning for something physical and heroic in the realm of the neutered, the digital, the mundane.
ERIC: You’re putting out fires? No, you sent an email.
STEVEN: The stolen valor never ends. There was actually a fire on Nantucket a few weeks while I was there. They canceled the production of the Queen musical I was supposed to attend because of it.
ERIC: How convenient that you didn’t have to attend. And where were you when the fire started?
STEVEN: I was .. um. I was.. .. [frantically scans Twitter] … playing pickleball!
ERIC: Wrong answer. You don’t mention pickleball to a tennis player — it’s an invasive sport — it’s taking over our courts.
STEVEN: Chris Black says pickleball is just fidget spinning. Which is also what people in our community call fucking a twink.
ERIC: That helps with my OCD.
STEVEN: So you agree that pickleball is basic and easy and doesn’t share the pedigree, history and skillset required of tennis. It’s a fad that’s cannibalizing court space from true athletes like yourself?
ERIC: Tennis is a battle of wills. It is epic in scale — requiring both mental and physical fortitude. Pickleball is a small game for small people. It requires only fast reflexes and a slow mind.
STEVEN: So pickleball is like writing a column. Tennis is like.. reading a column.
ERIC: Tennis is a personal essay.
STEVEN: 11,000 words and they’re all “love.” Wait, that’s beautiful.
Gladiator sandals stay ON during sex. Then you can run a marathon if you need to.
ERIC: Hallmark vibes. “Sorry for the loss of your tennis court. Love, Pickleball.”
[OPAL barks again]
STEVEN: Why is your dog so annoying and screaming while we’re trying to do work?
ERIC: She’s bored.
STEVEN: Doesn’t she have something to work on? Maybe a personal essay on kibble? “I Tried 3 Different Artisanal Dog Meal-Kit Delivery Services and This Was My Favorite”? Could she craft a shelf from a salt-block by licking it?
ERIC: I’m just going to have her wait quietly and then give her some chicken. Maybe I should do the same for you.
STEVEN: This is why I prefer cats. They understand the value of doing nothing. The joy of an unproductive day. The Mediterranean lifestyle. Like that Otessa Moshfegh book everyone loves.
ERIC: She wants to be a part of things. She wants to live life out loud! We’re old Millennials on our old laptops. She doesn’t get why we sit around chained to our computers.
STEVEN: It’s fine if she wants to be OOO — but can she do it O of our O?
ERIC: I’ll discuss with HR. Let’s take on another animal problem — monkeypox.
STEVEN: OK, monkeypox. It’s bad. It’s happening. It not only kills you, but makes you ugly.
ERIC: Where do you think it came from?
STEVEN: I think it was a lab leak.
ERIC: As in Lab, the gay sex club inside Berghain?
STEVEN: Or a Russian revenge plot.
ERIC: Ok, Rachel Maddow.
STEVEN: Renaming it Putinpox.
ERIC: The treatment is joining NATO.
STEVEN: Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.
ERIC: NATO stands for No Anal Time Off in office-speak.
STEVEN: WHO stands for We (only) Have (solo) Orgasms.
ERIC: Everyone’s getting it. Shawn Mendes just canceled his tour.
STEVEN: Even some women are getting it, which proves bisexuality does exist.
ERIC: No one believes you’re bi until you give monkeypox to a girl.
STEVEN: Have you been vaccinated yet?
ERIC: Yes. I don’t want to give it to my dog.
STEVEN: So you guys are closer than I thought.
ERIC: According to a widely circulated behavioral risk chart, we engage in risky behavior such as kissing, cuddling, and sharing linens.
STEVEN: How did you prove your eligibility for the vaccine? It says you’re supposed to have 14 partners in the past two days.
ERIC: No, two or more partners in the past 14 days.
STEVEN: I guess some people are really doing extra credit.
ERIC: You have to show them your Grindr conversations to get in.
STEVEN: How do they know you actually met up and weren’t just being a tease?
ERIC: They pair you with someone in the bathroom stall if they suspect you haven’t met your quota.
STEVEN: I have a boyfriend and we’re 100 percent monogamous according to his Feeld profile so it’s going to be difficult for me to qualify.
ERIC: Well it’s going to be awkward if one of you gets the pox.
STEVEN: It’s not an STI! He could’ve gotten it from your dog.
ERIC: And this is where there’s really been a communication breakdown. Something like 98 percent percent of cases are among gay men. In office lingo, that’s MSM, or men who have sex with men. We’re not supposed to stigmatize gay men by singling out their sexual practices but we’re also supposed to fight the disease by targeting its spread as effectively as possible.
STEVEN: Oh my god, a take. I’m shaking.
ERIC: I haven’t had sex in days. I’m livid!
STEVEN: I think more gays should be excited for the opportunity to take a temporary break from being a whore. You can learn so much when you stop sucking dick for a few minutes. Like how to drive a car.
ERIC: Sex and fun are synonyms in our community — if there’s no sex, you’re not having fun.
STEVEN: There’s always road head.
ERIC: Monkeypox is spreading through sex but we can’t call it an STI because we don’t want to stigmatize gay sex parties? So we’ll just pretend it’s spread by gay men not sanitizing their groceries as if the gay handshake isn’t penetrative anal. I just find it frustrating that there has to be a public “this is not a gay disease!!!” posture and a private “ok boys, lights on in the dark room” chat. I’m not saying that the Biden administration hasn’t been moving slowly or completely failed as per usual…
STEVEN: Seems fast enough to me. I’m old enough to remember a little thing called coronavirus. We didn’t get a vaccine for over a year.
ERIC: D.C. is literally the gayest city in the world, filled with group-sex loving lawyer husbands and wealthy Viagra lobbyists. It’s crazy to act like men who have sex with men don’t have any political power to push for vaccine distribution.
STEVEN: Well, I think that’s the point. Gays do have power which is why there’s already a vaccine being distributed to gay men. It’s the 1980s-cosplaying gays pretending we don’t have power.
ERIC: That New York Mag article about the rally was such a read.
STEVEN: I’ve already reached my quota of New York Mag articles for the month.
ERIC: Yet you still haven’t reached your dick quota to get the monkeypox vaccine.
STEVEN: Guess I’ll have to stay in blissful ignorance.
ERIC: Oh, I’m going there in August.
STEVEN: I hope you already booked a spot, it’s extremely popular with gays.
ERIC: Speaking of popular with the gays, Nathan Fielder has a new show.
STEVEN: What is about a slightly autistic guy with a great head of hair that gets girls and gays absolutely drenched?
ERIC: He has rescue-dog energy — some behavioral issues but puppy dog eyes, big droopy jowls, and hair you want to tousle.
STEVEN: I love it. The show, I mean. The hair I’m just jealous of.
ERIC: He’s also Canadian, which gives him that je ne sais quoi.
STEVEN: He’s so brilliant and thoughtful. He zeroes in on the funniest, weirdest, saddest, most honest things about human personality and amplifies them until we’re laughing and crying at the same time. He’s our Caravaggio.
ERIC: It’s his method of isolating behaviors, scenarios, sentences, words — until we can only see how weird they are. And I bet if he did it to you or me, or any so-called “normal” person, it would elicit the same weirdness, the same freakish yet poignantly human moments.
STEVEN: Right, like when he repeats “Cheap chick in the city” four times and the guy keeps repeating it. It’s a joke about something as simple as language. We're making a joke about this girl’s blog, but also about how many times this guy will say something, but also realizing we would say it, too. We want to say it!
ERIC: He’s a situational comedy alchemist — he can take the most mundane moment and turn it into gold.
STEVEN: I love being manipulated. That’s what television is. People who deny this are disavowing their own erotic fire and frankly, it’s sad.
ERIC: People are up in arms on Twitter saying the show is exploitative.
STEVEN: Which is great guerilla marketing for it.
ERIC: I think the Truman Show aspects of the show — when Nathan is actively manipulating what the subject believes to be true — scare people because they are forced to question their own reality. People generally want TV shows to provide comfort, to reinforce their choice to sit on the couch and watch TV, to make them feel safe.
STEVEN: People who think Nathan Fielder is exploitative are telling on themselves. They have such a condescending, pitiful view towards normal/non-media trained people, that they’re uncomfortable seeing that those people merely exist.
ERIC: You can only truly be exploited on TV if you want to be famous or get rich — but then it validates your own ambition and desire to be exploited by capitalism, so it’s consensual and no longer exploitation. Yes, I said the c-word.
STEVEN: Women go wild for capitalist exploitation! Eve was an influencer.
ERIC: The serpent gave her the apple so she would post it to her story.
STEVEN: He was a brand manager for the apple.
ERIC: Ssssssssteve Jobs.
STEVEN: Speaking of jobs, it’s Gawker’s one year anniversary!
ERIC: I’m so proud to play a trim, muscular role in their continued success.
STEVEN: Congratulations to Gawker on a year’s worth of articles like “Jonah Hill Parked His Car In a Weird Way” and “Soup Is Bad, Actually.”
ERIC: It’s easy to mock the lighter fare but we need it to survive. And there’s been some very potent deeper dives. Paul McAdory’s gay sincerity piece comes to mind.
STEVEN: I enjoyed Max Lakin’s piece on New Balances the other day.
ERIC: My own piece about going to therapy I never filed.
STEVEN: That was months ago, Eric. It’s time to move on.
ERIC: I need editorial therapy.
STEVEN: A year is a very short time in the grand history of media, and Gawker’s done remarkably well in that window. There are many things I like about this website, from the graphic design, which is cool but not annoying, to our columns, including the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and even what many are calling our seventh column.
ERIC: We’re basically a colonnade. And are we ionic, doric, or corinthian?
STEVEN: If I may bite the hand that feeds me for a minute, I think one of Gawker's challenges is trying to be both snarky and woke, which leaves them with a somewhat narrow list of punching bags favored by the liberal-left-but-not-too-left Twitter class — Kyrsten Sinema, Chrissy Teigen, Ellen DeGeneres, Joe Rogan. Which can feel a little circular.
ERIC: There’s a lot of book reviews, Twitter surfing, inside jokes — generally agoraphobic reportage. I’d like to see them take a more boots-on-the-ground approach. I want a mic planted in Julia Fox’s birkin. I want live reporting from Christine Quinn’s womb.
STEVEN: A nanny cam up Peter Thiel’s ass that can see twink cock heading straight for it.
ERIC: Speaking of nannies, I’ve noticed they also cover the British royal family quite extensively.
STEVEN: They should double down on that. Only British stuff. Make us say “wanker.”
We’re basically a colonnade. And are we ionic, doric, or corinthian?
ERIC: Wanker is when you try to be both snarky and woke.
STEVEN: Wanker dot com has a nice ring to it.
ERIC: You could call our column “Wank Off!”
STEVEN: “Poofs Who Chat.”
ERIC: “Fussy Faggots.”
STEVEN: Well, you can’t say “faggot” in British because it just means cigarette.
ERIC: And this is a non-smoking column.
STEVEN: I’d also be happy with “Bickering Bumlords.”
ERIC: Are we bumlords, or just bum-serfs?
ERIC: I think we’ve reached the bum of this column.
STEVEN: Careful, we’re only half-vaccinated.
ERIC: Keeping my toga on.
STEVEN: Ok, I’ve really got to-ga. Activating my vacation responder.
ERIC: *Hello, I am currently out of office. If your matter is urgent please contact Steven Phillips-Horst.*
Previously on Talk Hole: Talk Hole: Children of Folx