Alumna Jacqueline Pereda ’08, who majored in English and Journalism and Media Studies, is a writer, producer, and comedian passionate about creating comedy that comments on the culture and our universal struggle with identity. She recently wrote, directed, and produced her half-hour comedy pilot/short, “Generation por qué?,” now streaming on HBO Max and HBO Latino. It was a 2020 official selection for SeriesFest and Women in Comedy Festival, and the web series was a semifinalist for the Sundance New Voices Lab. Variety, announcing HBO’s acquisition, wrote, “the web series-turned-short film breaks boundaries not only with its subversive comedy and its plot but also because the majority of the cast and crew are children of immigrants themselves.”
Pereda’s comedy has appeared on TruTV, Funny or Die, Mas Mejor, WhoHaha, Brown Girl Magazine, and Brooklyn Comedy Festival. She has written, directed, and produced over 20 comedic shorts and musical parodies in New York City and on her YouTube channel. She is a proud alumna of the William Esper Studio and Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) sketch program. Just after her pilot has its HBO world premiere, Jacqueline shared her Rutgers memories with SC&I.
SC&I: What drew you to Rutgers and the JMS program?
JP: The minute I stepped onto the Rutgers campus for a tour, I knew in my heart that I was meant to go to school here. I loved the vibe and hearing students talking about their classes and campus life; it felt like a great fit, and I could see myself thriving here. It was also close enough to visit my parents on the weekends, which was important to me. (My first-generation people will back me up here!) What drew me to the JMS program initially was secretly wanting to pursue acting and be on TV. I thought to myself, “I can major in broadcast TV!” which would scratch my itch of yearning to be on television while being viewed as an acceptable career choice by society and my parents. But once I took the Intro to Media 101 class and learned the role journalism serves in our society, I was hooked and knew I wanted this to be my major.
SC&I: Did you always know you wanted to express your personal experiences through humor?
JP: I’ve always been the little comedian in my family, and humor has been a huge part of how I express myself and interpret the world, but I never thought it was a skill you can cultivate. I took a Creative Writing class at Rutgers, where we had to write a ten-page play, and I wrote one inspired by my family. It was supposed to be a “drama,” but when we read it out loud in class, people were cracking up, and everyone thought it was a comedy. After class, the professor pulled me aside and told me I should submit the play to play festivals in New York. That was the first time a seed was planted that I can actually write comedy.
SC&I: What particular classes and mentors at SC&I had a significant influence on you?
JP: Steven Miller has been a mentor since graduation, and his Intro to Media Studies 101 had a significant influence on me. I remember learning the history of media, television, and the 24-hour cycle. I was stunned by how much the media shapes our policy and culture. Personally, learning about Desi Arnaz’s contributions to Hollywood and television in that class really impacted me. I remember calling my mom (both of my parents immigrated from Cuba) and telling her how Arnaz was the first to use multi-cam and essentially invented tv show “re-runs”; it was thrilling and shocking for both of us. We had never known that. Also, Bruce Reynolds’s journalism classes challenged me in the best way and pushed me as a writer. I learned the foundations of journalism and how to inject my humor into articles I had written. He was also very honest about how a newsroom works and happy to burst all of our bubbles. Lol!
SC&I: Describe your path once you graduated.
JP: After I graduated, I was on my “I am a very serious journalist, and you cannot tell me otherwise” track. I worked for U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, thinking I would end up in politics/political journalism, but the acting/comedy bug kept calling me, so I moved to New York to pursue it. While I worked my job in tech during the day, I went to the William Esper Studio acting conservatory at night and then UCB. After I graduated, I was booking TV shows and opportunities I had always dreamed of, but I felt unfulfilled. After I bombed a huge audition, I finally came to the realization I wanted to be writing my own words and quit auditioning all together. I began writing and producing my own comedy videos, writing plays, and apprenticing to the craft. I absolutely fell in love with creating worlds and bringing them to life. Once I made that decision, everything fell in place—not that it was easy, but I finally felt aligned to what I was meant to do, which was comedy. My professors at JMS always saw the comedy thread in all of my work and would bring it to my attention, but it took me a longer time to accept it. And now here I am!
SC&I: What advice do you have for current and future SC&I students?
JP: My practical advice is to use this time at SC&I to follow your curiosity and discover what excites you. If you’re not sure, the only way to find out is to do. Volunteer at the WRSU Rutgers Radio. Write for the Daily Targum. Take advantage of all of the internship opportunities available. I interned at CNN and ABC Daytime Public Relations, and those experiences helped me discover what I was drawn to ultimately. Put in the work and apprentice yourself to whatever major you choose. In the age of immediacy and going viral, remember things do not happen overnight but are earned step by step. Be a great collaborator and teammate to your peers. Relationships are everything—I still keep in touch with my JMS classmates, and we’ve all helped each other in some way and have leaned on each other for professional and personal advice over the years. Finally, while you’re in SC&I and beyond, lead with an open heart, be kind, and don’t be afraid to ask and go after what you want.
SC&I: Thanks, Jacqueline! The pilot is hilarious—we laughed knowingly at the Rutgers reference and applauded when we spotted the big red R on the wall. Go, Rutgers!
Tune in to see her comedic genius in action in “Generation por qué?,” now streaming on HBO Max and HBO Latino.