Talk Hole is the bi-weekly spoken column of New York’s alt-comedy darlings Eric Schwartau and Steven Phillips-Horst, offering their oracular powers of cultural analysis on all corners of the zeitgeist (high, low, top, bottom). From a call in Brooklyn, Schwartau and P-H (as Steven is lovingly referred) prove talk is chic and drop references to hot trends, hotter temperatures, and scalding political debates. This time, Talk Hole takes Hillary Clinton’s MasterClass and tries to contract Omicron.
P-H: Well, I got it!
SCHWARTAU: Can’t believe you finally got COVID almost two years into a pandemic.
P-H: I’m a contrarian. I don’t like to do stuff when everyone else is doing it. I still haven’t seen The Wire.
SCHWARTAU: And how’s your little contrarian throat?
P-H: It’s sore, and a little wet. Which was surprising because everyone always said it’d be a “dry cough.”
SCHWARTAU: Nancy Reagan’s throat surprised everyone, too.
P-H: And just like her, I’m finally getting attention for my best skill.
SCHWARTAU: Staying in your apartment?
P-H: Being a victim!
SCHWARTAU: Well, I feel like a victim now for not getting Omicron.
P-H: Anyone who’s anyone got omicron.
SCHWARTAU: Time Magazine’s Variant of the Year.
P-H: This year has been—and I say this with all due respect to Britney’s 2007 reality show of the same name—”chaotic.”
SCHWARTAU: And this season finale? Succession could never.
P-H: It’s been quite the reversal in vibes. 2020 was a generally similar experience for everyone—we all went down with the ship. But 2021 feels like, no matter who you are, you did a complete 180. If you were brunette, now you’re blonde. If you were woke, now you’re trad.
SCHWARTAU: You sound like Spotify Wrapped copy.
P-H: I started the year in a fully vaccinated long term relationship, 15 pounds heavier on quarantine pasta, with only a little magazine column to my name. Now I’ve got thousands of antibodies, 2 abs, 1 podcast, and zero boyfriends.
SCHWARTAU: Getting out of a relationship is a great way to lose weight.
P-H: 165 pounds right out the door.
SCHWARTAU: I actually put on 14k… because I got engaged.
P-H: Another 180.
P-H: Degrees. You always struck me as someone who would be eternally on the market, and by market I mean “grid.”
SCHWARTAU: Being off the market does not mean being off Grindr.
P-H: Congratulations either way. Marriage is the perfect stabilizing coda to a year of chaos.
SCHWARTAU: When times are tough, invest in gold.
P-H: In many ways, getting married is like an NFT. Just a little piece of paper that says you own another person.
SCHWARTAU: And just like an NFT, I don’t know what it means, but I’m posting about it anyway.
P-H: I can barely remember what happened this year, which is why I want to thank Dan Allegretto for putting together a handy invite-only Google Doc of everything that did. Remember, when Ryder Ripps and Azealia Banks got engaged, too?
SCHWARTAU: Was that on Jan 6th?
P-H: Yes, I’d like to rebrand January 6th as anything that’s “surprising.” A coup is a surprise.
SCHWARTAU: I’m actually losing my mind realizing that the insurrection happened this year.
P-H: I think the sensation you’re experiencing is COVID brain fog.
SCHWARTAU: Did they ever find Nancy Pelosi’s podium?
P-H: In our coup column we said the podium was, and I quote: “probably in some backyard in West Virginia, sitting around a grease can fire, trying to look masc in front of her new captors.”
SCHWARTAU: Sounds like she didn’t make it.
P-H: Maybe the new one can be a part of Build Back Better?
SCHWARTAU: Yes, but Joe Manchin wants it downgraded to a stepstool.
P-H: I love how Build Back Better got slowly murdered on the operating table until it was just a loose kidney and a couple of bones. Then the Democrats were like “Ok, maybe we could make bone broth?” And Joe Manchin was like “Actually, I’m over both. You’re getting pure, homegrown West Virginia coal for Christmas.”
SCHWARTAU: Poor Democrats. I wonder how AOC’s free Talkspace sessions are going for that.
P-H: I think e-therapy subscribers have moved on to processing their Astroworld trauma.
SCHWARTAU: Therapists really cleaned up in 2021— they don’t have to pay rent for offices anymore and literally everything was classified as trauma.
P-H: I mean, we elected Biden because of his trauma.
SCHWARTAU: I think people are starting to miss being able to blame Trump for everything. Especially now that covid isn’t going away.
P-H: But at least now we have Jen Psaki to go “Shhhh, grandpa’s napping.”
SCHWARTAU: People were so laudatory of her professionalism early on, which was ultimately just her evading questioning more convincingly than her predecessors.
P-H: Sorry I nodded off there, Big Mac. What were you saying, buddy? Build what back?
SCHWARTAU: I was saying politics got very tired in 2021.
P-H: Politics are out. Podcasts are in.
SCHWARTAU: Podcasts did seem to get even more popular this year…. sad.
P-H: Yes, it’s unsettling because this was supposed to be the year of socializing. We were supposed to leave all those antisocial behaviors—like podcasting, masturbation and long-ass Instagram captions—behind. We were supposed to travel, to indoor dine, to party bus! To embrace the physical world again!
SCHWARTAU: Well, like many people, I got a dog so I couldn’t go anywhere.
P-H: COVID’s most enduring legacy will be all the dogs purchased by bored couples.
SCHWARTAU: I think you mean rescued.
P-H: Yes, you “rescued” your dog from a life of heteosexual stability to be shuffled around by itinerant gay fathers. Just like I “saved” my local Thai restaurant by ordering delivery 36 times this year, and the United States “freed” Afghanistan by dipping.
SCHWARTAU: But I think there was also this sense that once we got a taste of what we’d missed, it didn’t really feel that special anymore. I’m talking about And Just Like That…
P-H: Another 180. They took a show about four women having sex in a city and turned into a show about 3 women not having sex who barely leave the Upper East Side.
SCHWARTAU: I was shocked at the exponential growth in walk-in closet size. Every scene is taking place inside of one.
P-H: Maybe it was a nod to the fact that most of its audience was in the closet when the original show aired.
SCHWARTAU: They really need to bring back Carrie’s voiceovers.
P-H: I couldn’t help but wonder.. did they kill off Big because they knew Chris Noth would get Me Too’d?
SCHWARTAU: And Just Like That… HBO doesn’t have to use his likeness in promotional material anymore.
P-H: There’s something very 2020 about this reboot: it’s awash with guilt. It’s as if the creators felt so bad for having made a show about four white women seeking pleasure and enjoying themselves that they had to punish these poor ladies in every way possible. Death. Alcoholism. Banishing the most joyful character to London. Just a glum, painful slog without a sliver of jouissance to swing a Fendi purse at.
SCHWARTAU: Carrie’s podcast certainly feels like court-mandated community service.
P-H: What’s interesting is that it’s so painstakingly woke yet has been somewhat universally rejected by fans. If 2021 started out at peak wokeness, I would say the end of the year marks its decline. The unwokening has begun.
SCHWARTAU: The sleepening.
P-H: Biden’s on top of it.
SCHWAWRTAU: Remember when the CIA rebranded as an awesome-sauce inclusive workplxce? They launched that ad that was like “calling all cisgender millenial Latinxes with generalized anxiety disorder—we’ve got a coup in the Global South for you to organize.”
P-H: At the Centrxl Intellicnxe Agenxy, we believe all sex workers with chronic pain have the right to be spied on.
SCHCWARTAU: Our pronouns are drone/bomb.
P-H: I’m trying to think of another joke but I can’t think of what else the CIA does besides listen in on conversations.
SCHWARTAU: And now they’ve gone from listening in on conversations to being part of the conversation on Twitter—like our foremost public intellectuals, Ben Shapiro or Taco Bell.
P-H: From deep state to shallow state.
SCHWARTAU: Intelligence agency to branding agency. Teaching the next generation how to launch influential campaigns that can keep the masses slack-jawed and pro-war.
P-H: And what’s more queer than that!
SCHWARTAU: Ultimately, I think you’re right. Woke is out.
P-H: This is why everyone loves The Sopranos again, despite how problematic Tony was.
SCHWARTAU: Speaking of bloated criminals, Alec Baldwin had a crazy year. I would feel so bad if I accidentally shot someone.
P-H: Remember when Trump said he could shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue and no one would care? And then Alec Baldwin, who did an increasingly pained Trump impression for four years, actually did shoot someone?
SCHWARTAU: Maybe he was still doing the impression.
P-H: Testing the theory.
SCHWARTAU: And it worked. Baldwin’s still booking.
P-H: But not for the Trump impression anymore.
SCHWARTAU: Also one of the many times I wished Trump were still on Twitter.
P-H: Yeah, he would’ve been like “Alec Baldwin did a HORRIBLE impression of me on failing SNL. But SO SAD what happened on the set of his movie—which will now, never see the light of day. Wish him the best !!!!!!”
SCHWARTAU: They really said lets just silence the Biden administration’s most vocal critic…for democracy.
P-H: I don’t think that cinematographer was particularly critical of Biden but go off I guess. I do see that you’re becoming increasingly red-pilled—and you were always the more woke half of Talk Hole. Bolstering my theory that this year everyone flipped.
SCHWARTAU: Excuse you, I’ve always been vers. Suggesting otherwise is a hate crime.
P-H: Let me call the CIA. Speaking of… Jussie Smollett.
SCHWARTAU: I would feel bad if I got caught staging a fake hate crime.
P-H: It was staged, but was there not hate? Yes, he may have staged the so-called racist, homophobic attack. But staging a hoax for attention is intrinsically gay. And therefore getting convincted for it is instrically homophobic. What’s false becomes true once more.
SCHWARTAU: It’s Schrodinger’s hate crime.
P-H: Besides, it was right at the start of 2019. The Trump administration was still boiling away.
SCHWARTAU: Talk Hole’s column had just begun.
P-H: Exactly, there was a real appetite for marquee gay victimization. He was a product of his time, caught up in the moment. He should’ve walked.
SCHWARTAU: Sadly, all the Nancys and Kamalas were too humiliated by supporting him so quickly, so they need jail time to save face.
P-H: Just like how Hillary is still maneuvering behind the scenes to get Assange extradited because he exposed her State Department misdeeds.
SCHWARTAU: I’m currently learning how to maneuver behind the scenes in Hillary’s new Masterclass.
P-H: $250 to learn how to lose an election?
SCHWARTAU: There’s some tips on murdering Epstein in there, too.
P-H: I would love to know how to break into Manhattan Corrections Center, if only for the next time I get arrested and need to break out.
SCHWARTAU: I love how being on the brink of arrest is such an important part of your personality.
P-H: As someone of having-been-arrested-four-times-experience—not including the time I was deported from the United Kingdom—holding on to my victimhood is very important.
SCHWARTAU: I’m not sure you were deported so much as turned away at the door.
P-H: Let’s not relitigate 2009. I wasn’t on the list at Beatrice Inn either. It was a very dark period.
SCHWARTAU: Because this is a year in review column, I’m going to point out this is not the first time you’ve referenced the Beatrice Inn in a column this year.
P-H: It haunts me.
SCHWARTAU: Just imagined Beatrice Inn as operating a child sex trafficking ring and it didn’t seem that crazy.
P-H: Ghislaine’s trial isn’t over yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out she was recruiting in the bathroom while Kirsten Dunst did the last line of good coke New York ever saw.
SCHWARTAU: Well that line got her pretty far. I’m hearing Oscar buzz for Power of the Dog.
P-H: The Power of the Dog to keep a relationship together. Maybe I should’ve bought one.
SCHWARTAU: Again, rescued.
P-H: Did you see Bill Clinton has a MasterClass now too? I think this speaks to a point you were making while drunk about everyone becoming a store.
SCHWARTAU: Everyone is a store now! Everyone is selling their limited edition prints of their own tweets, pro-LGBTQ body soap, no-drip anti-wax candles to raise money for their ferret’s top surgery.
P-H: Ca$h app in bio, dignity in garbage.
SCHWARTAU: Stop the merch! Stop the passive income schemes!
P-H: I do love the idea of our leaders being more accessible—but there’s something so vulgar about a former president launching an online course in what I can only assume is how to bullshit, famously Bill’s best skill.
SCHWARTAU: I listened to bootleg versions of RuPaul and Anna Wintour’s Masterclasses that my hot Canadian hacker fiancé downloaded off the darkweb, and they’re more self-help audiobooks than real “courses.” I think what’s more undignified is Masterclass trying to pass itself off as higher education.
P-H: Yeah, why take out $200k in loans to get a Poly Sci degree just so you can toil away as a freelance copywriter—when you could just drop $200 to have Bill Clinton teach you how to sound concerned while saying words like “Africa” and “AIDS” and “uranium mine.”
SCHWARTAU: That’s where subscription models get you. You’ll be out $200k before you realize you missed the free trial cancellation window.
P-H: Did you see Harvard said you don’t have to take the SATs anymore?
SCHWARTAU: That’s great, intelligence really should not be a factor in admissions.
P-H: I’m worried today’s kids won’t learn how to fill in tiny little bubbles with a pencil. That’s a crucial stepping stone to finding the clit later in life.
SCHWARTAU: Or prostate!
P-H: Now that should be on the Harvard entrance exam.
SCHWARTAU: When the head turns crimson, you’re in.
P-H: Speaking of everyone being a store, please subscribe to my Patreon.
SCHWARTAU: And where’s your merch?
P-H: Coming soon. Supply chain issues.
SCHWARTAU: Remember the freighter that got stuck in the Suez Canal?
P-H: This is her now. Feel old yet?
SCHWARTAU: She’s this column?
P-H: She’s a rusted hull full of cheap products and pilfered ideas, so yes.
SCHWARTAU: I want to talk about the fact that everything is worse now.
P-H: It’s all so bad. Everything is awful! I know we’re all familiar with “inflation,” the pandemic, the labor shortage, the supply chain issue, but there’s been a precipitous drop in just the quality of everything now—on a philosophical level. We have no aesthetic morality anymore. No pride in making things nice.
SCHWARTAU: The almond croissant I just ordered was good.
P-H: Every business under the sun is making worse products than they were five years ago. Every service you can think of is shittier now. You used to get a mint on your pillow? Now you get a printout of a QR code that links to some scam chocolate brand called “Mynt”, and your Hilton+ voucher gets you $5 off $30 worth of toothpaste flavored chocolate (“chocolate” may or may not contain 1% cacao).
SCHWARTAU: Ambiguity is threatening. So now everything is expertly managed, meaning inflated in both the amount of time it takes and in how much it costs. There is a fee at every turn.
P-H: I went to the Boston Aquarium the other day because I crave intellectual stimulation. Where there was once a coat check there is now a cache of pay-to-play airport lockers, activated by a sad kiosk. That was a good paying job for a sullen teen! That was a whiff of human interaction. That was my coat being hung, not stuffed.
SCHWARTAU: What kind of coat was it?
P-H: Carhartt. I guess it doesn’t really need to be hung.
SCHWARTAU: Yearning for a class of people to serve you is not really where I thought this was going.
P-H: I don’t think coat checks qualify as a servant class. They don’t sleep with the other scullery maids in bunk beds.
SCHWARTAU: Depends on the museum.
P-H: And then today I went to one of the malls of my childhood. The stores are all higher-end now—where there once stood a Lindt Chocolatier and an Armani Exchange was now a Gucci and a Balenciaga—but the entire mall’s aesthetic was far worse. Gone was the magnificent red rock fountain in the main atrium, gone was the communal seating. Gone was the idea that this might be an enjoyable public space. It was just white walls, barren hallways, and lines of masked teenage billionaires waiting to buy logo sweatshirts.
SCHWARTAU: The Balenciaga sweatshirt floating in a sea of white surfaces aesthetic you’re describing is actually very Selling Sunset.
P-H: And just like Selling Sunset, the real world is becoming increasingly uncanny. A facsimile of human interaction. A world in which 5’6” men wield extraordinary power.
SCHWARTAU: Selling Sunset is the closest The Sims has ever come to reality—anatomically exaggerated women walking through walls and talking gibberish.
P-H: I adore the show. It’s a far more brilliant “satire of capitalism” or whatever than Squid Game. But I’m concerned about the increasingly mediocre, unremarkable, almost ghostly character of the $10 million houses on offer. The glass partitions everywhere. The fake wine cellar walls to display the wine you don’t drink. The same gold triangle planters and faux bamboo cabinetry. The message seems to be “it doesn’t matter how rich you are, you will never experience pleasure. Enjoy your West Elm showroom, dumbass.”
SCHAWRTAU: And maybe that’s fine. True pleasure comes from relationships.
P-H: Like the ones we have with our favorite podcasters.
SCHWARTAU: You’re my favorite podcaster.
P-H: And for that you have my deepest condolences.
SCHWARTAU: Did anything else happen this year?
P-H: Caitlyn Jenner lost her governor’s race, Bennifer got back together, IKEA launched a bisexual couch, we freed Britney, and Kim Kardashian passed the bar.
SCHWARTAU: We rescued Britney. To everyone of 2021 experience——congratulations, or sorry it happened!
P-H: See you in 2022.
SCHWARTAU: I can’t wait to see the merch.
LAST TIME ON TALK HOLE