MTV News and Stand-Up Comedy: The Week in Pop-Culture Writing

Highlights from seven days of reading about arts and entertainment

Kevin Hart performs during a comedy show.
Chris Pizzello / Invision / AP

MTV News, Chance the Rapper, and a Defense of Negative Criticism
Amanda Petrusich | The New Yorker
“Criticism doesn’t require its subject to acquiesce. For anyone accustomed to high degrees of control, this can seem, at first, like an affront. But well-rendered criticism confirms that the work is high stakes. This criticism can be illuminating and thrilling, and might offer an important vantage on a very private experience.”

Amy Pascal’s Hollywood Ending, Complete With Comeback Twist
Brooks Barnes | The New York Times
“Pascal, a 59-year-old woman in an industry rife with sexism and ageism, seems to have emerged stronger and happier, having reinvented herself as a producer through her company, Pascal Pictures ... On a personal level, after a lot of soul-searching, some in a therapist’s office, she has tried to see the hack as freeing. After all, she has no more secrets.”

Behind the Scenes at Fox and Friends, America’s Most Influential Morning Show (Seriously)
Marisa Guthrie | The Hollywood Reporter
“At a time when media consumption ... has been politicized to a degree not seen in decades, Fox & Friends has become a crucial strategic front for the president's war on the outlets he doesn't like. Trump doesn’t just watch Fox & Friends religiously; he often seems to take his talking points and even his policy cues directly from its content. Like it or not, thanks to its First Fan, the show may be the most influential news program in America.”

The Saga of Lena Dunham’s Dog Lamby, the Walking Internet Receipt
Ashley Feinberg | Wired
“We’ll likely never know exactly what happened with (to?) Lamby, but if nothing else, the dispute highlights just how permanent social media can be. Every tweet that vents frustration at a keening dog, every shared joke among friends, even a deleted photo can take on unintended significance years down the road. No single moment in time can tell a story—but the ever-accruing feed that you send into the world can portray all kinds of narratives.”

An Oral History of The Simpsons’ Classic Planet of the Apes Musical
Jesse David Fox | Vulture
“The musical … similarly made a mark on those who created it, if only because how relatively easy it came together … The bit has so many disparate parts—‘80s Austrian-pop parody, old-school-musical homage, Planet of the Apes, break-dancing, old vaudeville-style jokes—but in the hands of The Simpsons and its writers, it works. Or as Bill Oakley, one of the two showrunners at the time, told Vulture, ‘[It] was just a magic visit from the joke fairy.’”

The New Rock Stars: Inside Today’s Golden Age of Comedy
Elahe Izadi | The Washington Post
“The plethora of material online and the increased interest in comics have potential downsides. How can you be noticed in such a crowded field? If so many people have a special, is it special anymore? The size of your social-media following can help get you, or cost you, a gig—and is being good at Twitter the same as being good on stage, anyway?”

The Intimacy of Writing in the Second Person, in a Bar
Mairead Small Staid | Literary Hub
“What you love about it: You don’t, to be honest. You find it cowardly or lazy or something in your own work, though you adore it in others: Lorrie Moore’s early stories, Richard Siken’s poems, the essay by Michael Paterniti that begins, ‘Go with him. Go out into the feed yards with Jack Hooker.’ Even then, however, it is not the voice specifically that you love but what those writers do with it, their humor and panic and pathos.”

Heads Without Bodies
A.S. Hamrah | n+1
“Trump’s head is struggling to control our actions and responses the same way [Ray] Milland’s head struggled to control [Rosey] Grier’s body in this cheap movie. The devil finds work where he can. The Thing With Two Heads was too dumb to be noticed by James Baldwin in his book-length essay on race and the movies, and I had to go to Canada to run into it. Now it’s the kind of stupid we live with every day.”