Ask the Hole your questions and the Hole shall provide | The Coast Halifax

Ask the Hole your questions and the Hole shall provide

Dear students, sometimes the void spews jokes and movie times if you stare into it long enough.

"Asking the hole for advice"
"Asking the hole for advice"

Don’t worry. Ask Hole has you covered, once again.

The Coast sat down with our historic and illustrious advice-giver who ran a monthly column in The Coast, in 2017.

As a holiday treat, join Ask Hole for another dip in the anonymous Q and A pond as Hole answers a couple of readers' questions during their comeback cameo. These are followed by an interview with Hole herself, sharing future aspirations for the academic-all-comedian behind the Hole.

Dear Ask Hole,

My question is very simple. How could I manage to pay my bills and rent while waiting for my student loan to come to my account in January?

By the way, I'm not a lazy person and worked hard in November and will be committed to work in December. But as a father-student in massage therapy, I keep overthinking about how thin my wallet is.

Stay warm.

-Parent Overthinking Our Resources

Dear POOR,

When you said your question was “simple,” I was expecting something, uhh … simpler. Like, “What’s the perfect first date?”

Shrink yourselves down 'til you’re teeny tiny and fall asleep in a flower. Easy.

As the writer of a column called Ask Hole, that’s the kind of advice I’m qualified to give. How to support a family while waiting for a student loan that’s designed to keep you in debt ‘til YOU DIE? I don’t know, bro. That’s above my paygrade (zero dollars).

I don’t doubt for a second that you work hard. And, I know your family love and respect you for the work you’re doing. But, in 2023 the estimated wage needed to live in Halifax was $26.50 an hour. And, I can count on one hand the number of people I know who make that much. Forget the fact that rent in Halifax has skyrocketed since the beginning of the pandemic, and tuitions in Nova Scotia are some of the highest in the country.

AND THEN there’s inflation, which sounds like a witch’s spell that makes your boobs bigger, but isn’t ☹

(Sorry. This isn’t helping.)

Lemme see here, POOR…

You mentioned you’re studying massage therapy!

Maybe you could reach into the chest of the President of your school and massage their heart ‘til it grows 3 sizes – Grinch style.

Sorry.

(I’m so sorry.)

-Ask Hole

Dear Ask Hole,

I’m a Dal student not from Nova Scotia and I can’t afford a flight home for the holidays. All my roommates are leaving and I don’t want to spend Christmas alone, so I want to go out and party with other orphans. Someone told me The Dome is open on the 25th. Is it weird to go clubbing on Christmas?

-Single Elf Under the Lights

Dear SEUL,

Picture this. It’s the year Zero, and all the clubs in Bethlehem are closed for a private event. A bouncer guards the door of 𝐿𝒪𝒞𝒰𝒮𝒯. A couple approaches. Before the man and his pregnant wife have even spoken, the bouncer shakes his head, lowers the Hemp Rope and says, “VIP Only.”

You wouldn’t know it to look at them, but the man and his wife have VIP: a Very Important Pregnancy. Mary is about to give birth to the GOAT. The my-blood-is-literally-wine Prince of Partying.

Flash forward 2023 years. You’re at the club shaking ass to a cunty remix of Deli by Ice Spice. You look around at the smiling faces. Your cheeks are flushed from drinking a Redbull vodka too fast. You feel something close to how you used to feel at church. Egoless. Ecstatic. You wonder if perhaps you’re in the presence of God.

As you walk into the VIP section with the baddie you just met on the dancefloor, it becomes clear that not only is this not weird. It is divinely, blessedly ordained.

Mary and Joseph had to bust it open in a barn, but you don’t! Hallelujah !

-Ask Hole

"A hole. A hole that you can shout questions into, literally. It is me."

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For those of you who don’t already know that Ask Hole is written by our dearest and frequent Best Of comedian nominee and winner, Cher Hann, here’s a brief glimpse into the mind that shares the alter Ask Hole.

The Coast: When did Ask Hole begin?

Ask Hole: The Coast’s arts editor at the time reached out to me [in 2016-17] and asked if I wanted to do an advice column. And I was like, 'Okay, like, just FYI, I have no formal training at giving advice. I'm an idiot. But sure, yeah.’

Was that because you were doing PHUN PHONE at that time?

I had written a letter to new students that was published in The Coast [in August 2014]. It was welcoming new students to Halifax. And it was well received. I think based on that they assumed I could talk to students, I guess. I don't know. And I mean, I guess I can. That's what I do for a job now. I teach university students. So, yeah, it was a nice way to mix teaching and comedy. What I like about teaching, for example, and what I like about comedy. It was a good way to bridge those two facets of my professional life.

When you started Ask Hole, were you a student?

Yes. I’ve been a student for so damn long. I think I was probably doing my master's degree at that time. Yeah, and I remember the letter was basically–the gist of it was like, ‘Welcome to Halifax new students. If you spend all your time on Dal campus and downtown, you'll never know what's special about this city. So like, go to Charlie's club.’ Basically.

That advice still works.

It's still true. It’s a testimony to how little Halifax has changed.

So getting into it, who is Ask Hole? Is it a character? Or is it just supposed to be you?

It's funny. I have to look back and see how much I was at the forefront or even visible within it. I don't think I was the focus. I think it was kind of a Baba Yaga or something like a figure or symbol. A hole. A hole that you can shout questions into, literally. It is me. I feel like it's my voice as a writer but there's definitely an extra element of sarcasm or irony or being a bit of a shithead. I remember there was one that was like, ‘My neighbor has a political sign on their lawn and I don't agree with their politics. So what should I do?’

And I remember the tone of [my answer] was like, 'Here are all these elaborate things you do,' like pranks like Alvin and the Chipmunks behavior. And then the end was like: 'And absolutely do not go over and have a human conversation with your neighbour about your values or, you know, absolutely don't come from a place of empathy and respect.

So there's definitely an ironic tone, I guess?

Where you're shaking hands with the reader being like, you know this is a level of sarcasm we both agree on.

Yeah. I think the logic was that the name of the column, Ask Hole, would give that impression. When we [recently] got that question from a struggling single father, I was like: ‘I’m actually not qualified for this and approaching this with humor and sarcasm seems like the wrong move.’ So it is kind of limiting in a way because if someone has a really sincere question, I actually feel questionable, I guess, about offering advice. I can offer advice the way a friend would offer advice and I play that role for a lot for my friends. Maybe it's a taurus thing, but I give a lot of advice. I don't take a lot of advice, but I give a lot of advice. For me, it’s like this is what your cuntiest friend would say.

But I remember when someone asked you a question about how to enjoy socializing sober, I thought your answer was actually really good. It was encouraging. And it wasn't dismissive. I don't find that you're dismissive.

Okay, good. That's good. Yeah, my goal is not to make light or belittle the asker. My goal is to offer some kind of real advice that's coming from a normal person off the street, but couched in a kind of comedy tone, I guess. Yeah, I do remember that sobriety question. And actually, that had at that time been something that was on my mind a lot, because a lot of my friends and I were like, ‘Wow, we sure drink a lot. Like, can we do that less and still have fun?’ And at that time, I was really into the idea of going out to an event where you would normally drink and not drinking. And pushing yourself to that point of uninhibitedness, ecstasy and pleasure just through really letting go of your ego, I guess, which you don't need alcohol to do and when you do it through a conscious choice, it just feels like such a big "W" for you. It's funny, that sincere answer really came out of my own experience in that exact moment.

Can you tell me about your PHUN PHONE? Because that is really cool and feels related.

So, [in 2012] I still didn't have a cell phone. I was in my undergrad and I had just come off of finishing the first season of Picnicface, I think. I remember I was living in my own apartment for the first time on North Street. I was spending a lot of time alone. I was the absolute last person I knew who did not have a cell phone. But I had a landline with two numbers for some reason. It was some kind of special deal when I got my landline. So I started a call-in line every Tuesday and Thursday.

"I'm not qualified to do anything other than clown around."

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And who did you have calling in? What was the range?

Different genders, different ages, different locations. Not everyone who called was from Halifax. I got some people who called from Ontario. And I had one person, because it was also anonymous, I had one person who called every day, the same person. And I don't know who he was. But I talked to him every day for months.

Wow. And you never found out who it was?

No. And I didn't ask. I didn't really want to know. The anonymity and the "body-less-ness" of it is what's appealing. I really came to understand that after I injured my spine and couldn't get out of bed or walk for months. I spent a lot of time in online chat rooms piloting virtual avatars. The concept of being in body-less space where nothing is required of your physical body, you're just there, you're chatting, you're socializing. And no one has any expectations about what you'll be physically able to do or contribute. And that was such a relief for me when I was disabled. I got so into being online and formed all these amazing online friendships and relationships that really got me through a really difficult time. So 10 years after Phun Phone, I think looking back on it, I liked the concept of offering a kind of anonymous body-less space.

How did you choose between submissions?

Just whichever kind of sparked a joke or sincere answer. Whatever I felt connected to.

How did you enjoy being Ask Hole?

It was fun...I think it just got to be too much. I think I probably started my PhD and just couldn't take on the extra work anymore. But it was fun. It was like, I don't know, it's just silly. I was just having fun with it. But then on some level it felt nice and validating to be trusted with giving people answers. Like an honor in a way. I like to feel trusted or at least trusted to make a joke of it. Trusted to lighten the mood or something, you know?

Absolutely. If you were to reboot either Ask Hole or Phun Phone, or some version of them, what would you want to do with it now? Who would it be for?

That's a good question. I mean, I'm not qualified to do anything other than clown around. But I've been thinking about lately, or a dream of mine, is to have an online version of a class I teach at Dal, which is about video games as a radical narrative medium. I would just love to teach that to people who aren't in school or like aren't paying $2,000 a semester or whatever you pay to go to Dal. It'd be like, 'What do you think this is worth?' Sliding scale. Like for 50 bucks you can take the class, you know. More open source kind of community-based knowledge sharing. I would probably get paid better that way than I do by working at Dal. Haha.

I feel like rather than me sharing my thoughts, rather than me sharing my advice, or me spewing movie times, I think I'm more interested in the idea of a bilateral learning or getting stuff from others at the same time. Not just me unilaterally speaking out the way that a column kind of works where there's no dialogue beyond question and answer.

"I like to feel trusted or at least trusted to make a joke of it. Trusted to lighten the mood"

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Ask Hole’s past posts can be found here, here, here, here, here and here.

My free advice? Follow Cher on Instagram @scumsuck