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.
ERIC: We did it, Joe.
STEVEN: We escaped Interview Magazine’s chic, downtown clutches… and ran right into the cold, unfeeling arms of tech giant Gawker.com.
ERIC: The writing was on the wall. Or the feed. Print media has been dead for a while.
STEVEN: Probably because our column was never in the print version of Interview. Maybe then they would’ve had a chance.
ERIC: I’m excited to be moving. Gawker represents New York and its discontents — the past and the future. The old and the new.
STEVEN: So we’re old and Gawker is new?
ERIC: We’re all old. And we’re all rebranding.
STEVEN: I’m excited to move from Venmo requesting a billionaire art scion for [amount redacted] to joining the Bustle empire where I will be paid handsomely via direct deposit.
ERIC: Bustle… is that some sort of 19th-century corset?
STEVEN: Yes, and just like the women of that era, we’ll be driven hysterical by the repressive sexual mores of our insular, Victorian milieu. Does anyone here even have sex?
ERIC: I think Gawker mostly likes to watch.
STEVEN: I will miss the fame of being associated with Interview. Or at least Interview’s association with fame.
ERIC: We definitely got paid in exposure. Mostly by exposing our own asses.
STEVEN: It’s interesting how you can be paid in exposure, but exposure is also something you can die of when you’re hiking.
ERIC: Plenty of freelancers have died trying to climb Mount Invoice.
STEVEN: Fifty years ago, a Christopher Hitchens or a Carrie Bradshaw could file a piece once a month and make enough money to live comfortably in NoMad while enjoying three-martini lunches everyday. Now you’d have to file ten times a month to afford a railroad. And the martinis are made with Georgi.
ERIC: Friend of the column Natasha Stagg recently said that so many people are willing to not be paid because they want to maintain an illusion that they don’t need money.
STEVEN: This was why it was so hard for me to start a Patreon. The blow to my pride was almost fatal.
ERIC: And how's that going?
STEVEN: We’ve yet to break even.
ERIC: Have you considered starting a Gofundme for your Patreon?
STEVEN: I would normally never do this, but my Patreon is chronically ill and unable to work due to Covid. Please consider donating $20 so she can get the essential funding she needs to cover merch orders.
ERIC: I’ll share your post, but I don’t think I can donate right now. Haven’t gotten my Gawker direct deposit yet.
STEVEN: So what is the vibe here? The articles seem a little random. Every piece is either like “In Defense of Mac & Cheese” or a 6,000-word literary review. Who’s the audience?
ERIC: Millennials on their laptops. Who like dairy.
STEVEN: I want this column to be an homage to the old Gawker. Outing celebs, ruining lives, gossip, rumors, etc…
ERIC: So you’re going to out someone?
STEVEN: Yes. Get the cannon ready.
ERIC: Day one at Gawker and legal is already in a tailspin.
STEVEN: You’re not really saying anything worthwhile unless lawyers are reviewing it.
ERIC: Live, laugh, litigate.
STEVEN: Ok, I’m outing… wait for it… Tom Cruise.
ERIC: Ok, I’m outing… wait for it… Rosie O'Donnell. The ‘90s called — they want their outing back.
STEVEN: A friend of a friend knew a caterer who slept with him! That’s a scoop.
ERIC: I’m going to need some DNA evidence.
STEVEN: We could swab his mouth to find the gay gene?
ERIC: People used to say I looked like Tom Cruise — that’s pretty gay.
STEVEN: And people think I look like Jordan Firstman.
ERIC: I’d say you’re more Jordan Secondman.
STEVEN: Listen, maybe scoops don’t hit like they used to. And maybe the sort of insular media-world reporting that Old Gawker excelled at is less relevant in an age when everyone is a whistleblower — when people post screengrabs of interoffice Slack drama to Twitter seconds after their co-worker misgenders an M&M. Twitter is the town square and gallows all rolled into one, so the role of a publishing platform is less… juridical, and more —
ERIC: — homosexual.
STEVEN: Exactly. And that’s where we come in.
ERIC: You can’t spell Gawker without “gay.”
STEVEN: Someone’s been doing their Wordle.
ERIC: 🟩 🟩🟩 🟩🟩
STEVEN: I love how we’re making use of our new medium. You couldn’t say that in print!
ERIC: Again, we were never in print.
STEVEN: People like Wordle because five letters is as long as a word can be without being fancy.
ERIC: Fancy could be tomorrow’s word.
STEVEN: Wordle holds the promise of a smarter tomorrow. That your rotted brain might remember not just simple words like “chair” and “slice” but bangers like “onion” or “ennui.”
ERIC: People like Wordle because it’s a collective cry of boredom from the terminally online. It’s the new banging pots at 7 p.m.
STEVEN: And you get to post green squares, which evoke the Libyan flag without the baggage.
ERIC: Which brings us to the controversial green circle of the week: the increasingly frumpy M&Ms.
STEVEN: I’d like to quote myself in a 2020 Talk Hole column when I said “the future is autistic, Canadian, and to be frank, lesbian.” That aesthetic dovetails neatly with the de-Yassification of the Green M&M.
ERIC: Love that their idea of being progressive is just practical footwear.
STEVEN: All the M&M’s are in Stan Smiths now. The shoe of choice for polite futch lesbians.
ERIC: The futchwear of choice.
STEVEN: Does she still “melt in your mouth, not in your hands?”
ERIC: She melts in your mouth, but only with consent.
STEVEN: The culture wars never end, and everyone takes the bait.
ERIC: We’ve all got chocolate on our fingers.
STEVEN: I mean, if the M&M’s are supposed to reflect our era, then it’s accurate they’d be increasingly non-binary, anxiety ridden and prone to extremely long Instagram captions. But the reality is the Marvel-ification, the de-adulting, the de-sexing of advertising has been happening for years. All the recent M&M spots have Mx Green doing kooky hijinks, with no lingerie in sight. It’s kid stuff!
ERIC: Yes, how dare they market candy to children.
STEVEN: Who should we wokeify next?
ERIC: Thin Mints. Kind of a misleading name.
STEVEN: They should just be “mints.” In fact, maybe you shouldn’t be allowed to comment on the mints’ size at all. Whether or not you think they’re “thin” is irrelevant to their journey, and could even be harmful to their sense of self.
ERIC: The Sour Patch Kids are getting Munchausen syndrome.
ERIC: Right, their parents have convinced them they’re sour, but they’re actually on the sweet spectrum.
STEVEN: Kellogg’s should reduce the size of Toucan Sam’s beak to reflect the diversity of male appendages in the animal kingdom.
ERIC: Well, toucans have naturally large beaks. Maybe they should just get a less-threatening mascot like Pigeon Pete.
STEVEN: It’s not the size of the beak, it’s the power of the peck.
ERIC: Mike & Ike are getting a third.
STEVEN: Mike, Ike & Spike — poly licorice for solo enjoyment.
ERIC: Um, they’re not licorice flavored. That’s Good & Plenty.
STEVEN: Sorry I never learned all the candies, I’m on the savory spectrum.
ERIC: Good & Plenty should change to “Fine & Enough.”
STEVEN: Just a nice, mid-market message of acquiescence. Don’t fantasize, don’t get carried away — just accept the drudging reality of your existence.
ERIC: It’s actually gaslighting to suggest licorice is enjoyable.
STEVEN: Speaking of gas… the impending completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany has serious geopolitical implications for Ukraine’s security and the future of NATO. Or so I hear.
ERIC: Do I need to have seen Nord Stream 1 to get Nord Stream 2?
STEVEN: Honestly, it’s the same gas they have at Nord Stream Rack.
ERIC: I don’t want last season’s gas.
STEVEN: I’m so split on pipelines. I love their shape. But I hate the environmental impact.
ERIC: Pipelines are great metaphors. The building a pipeline to invading Ukraine pipeline, for example.
STEVEN: The pipeline to pipeline metaphor pipeline. It’s funny that Trump was billed as so pro Russia but he was actually trying to stop that pipeline from finishing, so Russia wouldn’t have so much leverage over the West. Then Sleepy Joe just kind of let it happen. Which I get— sometimes you wanna just let people do their thing.
ERIC: The Biden to letting-the-pipeline-happen pipeline.
STEVEN: Like how they’ve been doing all that work on my block for months now, and it’s so loud every morning—but I just turn the fan on and ignore the jackhammering. They may actually be laying a pipeline from Ridgewood to Bushwick.
ERIC: And it’s carrying liquified natural ketamine?
STEVEN: Yes, it runs from the deep natural ketamine reserves beneath Knockdown Center all the way to the Happy Fun terminal.
ERIC: Giving Slavic Ridgewood even more leverage over rapidly westernizing, Berlin-pilled Bushwick.
STEVEN: I think it’s good that Germany isn’t necessarily pro-war with Russia because they need their gas. It’s like, mutual economic connections foster peace, right? This is the problem with homesteading queers who think they can grow their own peanut butter or whatever. What’s to prevent a neighboring septum pierced tribe from killing you if you don’t trade with them?
ERIC: Ukraine came out as non-binary, and now mother Russia is cutting them off. Meanwhile NATO is offering to pay for their transition.
STEVEN: What’s that old adage? No two countries with a McDonalds have ever gone to war with each other?
ERIC: We should change that to no two countries with a Chipotle. I think McDonalds has a forward operating base in every country. It might even be a country.
STEVEN: Well let’s get some burritos to Kiev, stat.
ERIC: Guac — and peace — are extra.
STEVEN: As someone who has always been able to point out Ukraine on a map, I’d like to point out that Eastern Ukraine is giving more Russian vibes, whereas Western Ukraine has more Ukrainian vibes. So in terms of this alleged pending invasion, I think Putin sees the Eastern part of Ukraine as like, they want to be Russian. He’s like.. they’re asking for it.
ERIC: No means yes?
STEVEN: Niet means da.
ERIC: He grabbed Ukraine by the Crimea.
STEVEN: I guess Crimea is kinda the crotch of Ukraine. That being said, Vladdy’s lusty imperialism isn’t very respectful and I don’t think it’s right to invade a country just because there are ethnic Russians in the area. It wouldn’t be right for Chelsea to invade the West Village just because there’s a sizeable gay population there.
ERIC: I’m seeing marketing managers with six packs, marching down 8th Ave. to liberate the leather guncles of Christopher Street.
STEVEN: Annie Leibowitz and Sarah Jessica Parker huddled in their brownstones, not sure who to side with.
ERIC: SJP threw the first brick at Stonewall.
STEVEN: And Che Diaz threw the last.
ERIC: But they were throwing bricks at the bar, not the police.
STEVEN: And just like Che Diaz ultimately craves violence, there’s a huge Blinkenocracy in Washington that wants war. I mean, Democrats love the idea of war with Russia because they can drop bombs without being accused of doing a racism.
ERIC: What’s a Blinkenocracy? People who go to Blink?
STEVEN: The Secretary of State is Antony Blinken. That was my reference. But I do keep getting emails from Blink saying I have a past due balance, which is fascism to me.
ERIC: As long as Putin does a land acknowledgment when he invades.
STEVEN: I think an invasion is a land acknowledgment. I mean what is more acknowledging that putting boots on the ground?
ERIC: I feel very acknowledged when there is a boot on me.
STEVEN: This is why it’s so fucked up that they took the Green M&M’s boots away.
ERIC: She won’t be able to invade Ukraine now.
STEVEN: I feel like Britney is about to invade Ukraine.
ERIC: Someone please take away her nuclear codes aka Instagram password.
STEVEN: Maybe she’s fine, but just… really chaotic online.
ERIC: Don’t tell Britney you can post full nudes on Twitter.
STEVEN: She should move her column to Gawker. They’ll post anything.
ERIC: She should date Kanye. He’s very Queer Eye for the Straight Girl.
STEVEN: I think Julia Fox’s Instagram stories have only increased in frequency so maybe that’s not the best course for Britney.
ERIC: I love that dating Kanye means he dresses you, and puts you in different poses, mostly in restaurants and airports.
STEVEN: Which raises the question — what is a girlfriend if not a doll?
ERIC: And what is a relationship if not a photoshoot?
STEVEN: This is why I never post photos of my boyfriend to main. I aspire to more than just matching denim. I want the kind of love that no one talks about. And conveniently the kind of love that doesn’t leave a trace when it ends.
ERIC: Maybe your last relationship would’ve lasted longer if you posted more photos of your boyfriend. A paper trail is like a wedding ring.
STEVEN: A promise signed in likes.
ERIC: You have to stay together just to avoid the awkwardness of people asking when’s your next leather catsuit photo dump from a trattoria.
STEVEN: I’m not sure whether to admire the self-determination of the Kanye relationship rollout. Your new girlfriend writing a column in Interview about you, “producing your own photo shoot,” etc. He’s taking away good paying American jobs from other stylists, photographers, and Interview columnists!
ERIC: I think Interview columnists are taking their own jobs away, and that’s beautiful.
STEVEN: But we hired a photographer to document it.
ERIC: And ultimately, what is a column if not a photoshoot?
STEVEN: Speaking of photo shoots, we went to Mexico. But were we colonizing?
ERIC: I was colonizing the gay guys who were there a week before me. A good test is to ask yourself, did I speak any Spanish besides ordering food and beverages?
STEVEN: Right, it’s ordering drugs in Spanish that makes you a local.
ERIC: Not overtipping makes you a local.
STEVEN: It’s the overtipping that really tips you off.
ERIC: Americans should realize that our tipping system is barbaric. It’s why waiters here have to do this little song-and-dance performance at every table — because their wages are now wholly dependent on the customer liking them personally. It puts power in the hands of the consumer instead of workers. It’s not a good system. We shouldn't be exporting it.
STEVEN: Worry less. Laugh more. Tip like no one’s watching.
ERIC: Giving your phone number to waitstaff is still encouraged.
STEVEN: I think it’s pronounced WhatsApp. There is a way to vacation responsibly as an outsider, and it involves participating in the local culture. You can’t just use the WiFi and order UberEats. You have to give back to the community.
ERIC: You have to give an STI to the community.
STEVEN: That’s what’s known as Bushwick’s Revenge.
ERIC: Maybe Bourdain’s Revenge? It should be the revenge of a specific leader of civilization.
STEVEN: Right, and all Westerners who like tacos are ultimately following in Anthony’s Bourdain’s carnivorous footsteps.
ERIC: Bushwick’s Revenge is when you get the same STI you just had because you got treated but didn’t tell any of your sexual partners.
STEVEN: Sometimes, even when we speak the same language, it’s so hard to communicate.
ERIC: Yo estoy gonorrhea.
STEVEN: Speaking of disease… everyone is dying. Joan Didion, Andre Leon Talley, Betty White, Louie Anderson, Meat Loaf, Bob Saget, Thierry Mugler.
ERIC: I don’t want to imply that Joan Didion died of gonorrhea.
STEVEN: No, of course not. She wasn’t an STI girl. Unlike her self-appointed spiritual heirs.
ERIC: Thin writers or girls who smoke cigarettes?
STEVEN: Thin girls who think they’re writers because they smoke cigarettes.
ERIC: I think it’s not that more people are dying but that people have more time to memorialize them.
STEVEN: People are on their phones more with the whole pandemic thing.
ERIC: I don’t really do RIP posts. I feel too removed from death. But then I'm like, what if no one posts about me?
STEVEN: As a general rule, if no one’s posting about you when you’re alive, they probably won’t be posting much when you’re dead either.
ERIC: Can’t wait for the West Elm Caleb obit.
STEVEN: He got the death sentence for ghosting girls?
ERIC: He got the death sentence for working at West Elm.
STEVEN: As it should be. Enough with the girlboss brass & marble! Enough with the jewel-toned velvets.
ERIC: The girls haunting him on TikTok are the real ghosts. He’s moved on, they’re the ones with unfinished business.
STEVEN: Not to be a feminist, but I do think ghosting is insanely rude, and people who have ghosted me actually deserve a mason jar of overpriced decorative rocks dumped on their head, Carrie-style.
ERIC: Conversations end. Someone eventually needs to stop talking. And it’s typically the man.
STEVEN: And if a guy texts you back, he’s gaslighting you.
ERIC: If a guy texts you back, he’s gay.
STEVEN: The real tragedy of this saga is Tiktok explanation culture — taking a relatively banal story and doling it out piecemeal, treating each new morsel of information as its own cliffhanger. It’s like the bingeification of talking.
ERIC: Or the bimbo-ifcation?
STEVEN: It’s the fault of all these Netflix shows called like, “Ask The Gardener” or “Seattleania” and they’re all period pieces about women whispering to each other on steamships, and its seven seasons of relentless plot twists with zero character development.
ERIC: Maybe we can incorporate more cliffhangers into the column.
ERIC: Are you ghosting me?
ERIC: I have two tickets to a comedy concert this weekend, if you’re interested, but no pressure.
ERIC: Fine. Read you loud and clear. See you on TikTok, Restoration Hardware Steven.
STEVEN: Hey. Sorry for not getting back to you. My grandmother was launching a really complicated NFT project and I’ve been swamped helping her get it off the ground. Is it okay if we put a pin in this? Also, could you please not talk about this in your column?
ERIC: I’m really sorry about your grandma. But I will be discussing this on Gawker.
STEVEN: Please no! Everyone reads Gawker!
ERIC: Not once we’re done with it.