Jenny Lorenzo is an actor, writer, and content creator known for her relatable comedy diving into life as a 1st generation Cuban-American, or “living in the hyphen”. Shortly after co-founding BuzzFeed’s Latinx-focused channel Pero Like, the comedian’s beloved Abuela character became a viral YouTube sensation and won her ”Best Character” at the Tecla Awards 2018. Her witty banter can also be found on Aggressive Comix and We Are Mitú, as well as heard on Cartoon Network’s Victor & Valentino. We caught up with Jenny to discuss her work and the inspirations that fuel it.
FROM YOUR EARLIER DAYS TO NOW, HOW DO YOU THINK YOUR MATERIAL HAS EVOLVED OVER THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS? I’ve been creating digital content for a little over ten years, and I have certainly gone through an evolution. From 2011 to 2015, I was part of a YouTube channel called Aggressive Comix, in which I talked about all things geeky. From comics to video games to superhero films. Once I moved to LA in 2015 and became a producer at BuzzFeed, I turned my attention towards Latino content because I realized the company severely lacked that representation. I teamed up with a few more people, and we created Pero Like. The Abuela character, herself, has also evolved as more work has been put into her voice, posture, mannerisms, and overall appearance over the years. Now that I consistently play seven characters, my material has delved into their lives, their relationship to one another, and their backstories. I am always looking to improve and evolve my content and writing. I strive for that constantly.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS THE HARDEST PART ABOUT BEING A COMEDIAN? Hoping other people find things as funny as you do. Comedy is subjective! And for that reason, with every new sketch release, I’m biting my nails over whether it’ll resonate with others or not.
LET’S GET INTO YOUR “ABUELA” ROLE, HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA, AND WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CRAZIER TOPICS YOU’VE TACKLED? My Abuela character is based on my real maternal grandma. Her name was Orquídea Diaz, and she had a significant hand in raising my sister and me. I’ve been imitating her since I was a kid and brought her into my drama class performances and improv games. When it came to debuting her on the Internet, it was for a review of the film, Kick-Ass 2, on the Aggressive Comix channel. Abuela’s been involved in many shenanigans and has worked with celebrities such as Elvis Crespo, Rita Moreno, and Pedro Pascal. Abuela has also been a professor at Hogwarts, the founder of Jurassic Park, and became the virtual assistant- Amazon Abuela. La Abuela esta en todo.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IT IS ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA THAT HAVE MADE IT SUCH A SUCCESSFUL PLATFORM FOR COMEDIANS IN PARTICULAR?
Social media has been one of the best ways for artists to showcase their work across the board. And it’s especially beneficial to comedians. Even more so during this pandemic! I’ve participated in Zoom comedy shows, live streams, and I can put my work out there because I have everything I need to make content at home.
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE WORLD OF COMEDY NEEDS MORE OF TODAY? I want to see more physical comedy in sitcoms and the kind of roasting you saw on hit shows like Fresh Prince and Martin. The world of comedy also needs to diversify, which is currently being discussed in major improv schools like UCB, The Groundlings, Second City, etc.
WHAT’S YOUR MOST ACCOMPLISHED MOMENT? My most accomplished moment is having co-founded BuzzFeed’s Pero Like alongside Jasmin Ontiveros, Alex Alvarez, and Norberto Briceños. All four of us worked very hard and dealt with a lot of adversity and push-back. But we believed in ourselves, the content, and our audience and didn’t take no for an answer.
WHO HAS BEEN AN INSPIRATION TO YOU?
My upbringing in a Cuban- American household in Miami has undoubtedly been an inspiration for me. Especially my Cuban family. My peers also
inspire me. I’m consistently surrounded by incredibly kind and talented people who know how to hustle. Growing up watching comedy giants such as Lucille Ball, Carol Burnette, and Vicki Lawrence certainly helped push me towards being a comedian as well.
DID YOU ALWAYS WANT TO BE A COMEDIAN?
I would say so, yes. I knew I wanted to get into comedy when I was 10-years-old. I performed a comedic monologue where I played a cheesy saleswoman trying to sell scratch-n-sniff Bibles in front of a large crowd, and upon hearing the laughter from the audience, I just knew I found my place in this world.
HOW HAS YOUR BACKGROUND AS A BILINGUAL AND CUBAN- AMERICAN HELPED YOU IN YOUR CAREER? It has helped me immensely. I cannot express enough how thankful I am that Spanish was my first language and that I spent as much time as I did around my grandparents, who only spoke Spanish. Knowing both languages and, as a Miami native, inheriting our common third language of Spanglish, has helped me showcase the city’s remarkable diversity. You have Laritza, who speaks Spanglish, Abuela, who mostly speaks Spanish, and Jasleiney, who cannot speak a lick of it.
I like to showcase how alike and different Cuban-Americans are from one another. There’s no one-size-fits-all within the culture. And being Cuban- American from Miami has gifted me with so many exciting stories and characters to write about.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED OR ENJOYED DURING COVID-19?
I have learned how to stay creative and continue to churn out content throughout the pandemic. I haven’t left the house in over four months! And for the first two and a half months, I had to produce everything on my own without my crew. Now, my small team and I are working together again under incredibly strict guidelines. We feel incredibly fortunate to be able to make content together during a time like this. As artists and, especially, comedians, we want to be of use to our community and bring some joy and laughter now more than ever. I’ve also learned that what I do is also a discipline. There have been more days than I can count that I was too depressed, worried, anxious, and stressed out to make comedy videos. But I did it anyway. I will always stand by the fact that getting stuff done isn’t about motivation but discipline.
TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR RECENT SUCCESS WITH YOUR ROLE AS LUPE IN CARTOON NETWORK’S VICTOR & VALENTINO. Getting to play Lupe has been a dream come true. In my early 20s, I’d attend all the South Florida comic book conventions and talk to all the veteran voice actors like John DiMaggio and Rob Paulsen. They were always so kind and would give me advice on how to make it as a voice actor. Upon moving to Los Angeles, one of the first things I did was enroll in voice acting classes, and I am eternally grateful to the creator of the show, Diego Molano, for giving me a chance. He’s a Cuban/Mexican/Colombian- American from Miami, and he came across my videos, which led to my audition. It’s pretty cool to voice a character with a Cuban accent – something I’ve never seen in an animated series. In addition to Victor and Valentino, I recently booked a few recurring roles in a brand new animated series, but I can’t talk about it yet. Stay tuned!
ANY CAUSES OR ORGANIZATIONS YOU SUPPORT AND WOULD LIKE TO MENTION? The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, Mutt Scouts, Nosotros, We All Grow Latina, The Okra Project, NALIP, The Trevor Project, Trans Lifeline, Black Girls CODE.