San Antonio comedian Larry Garza headlines roast, living memorial in his honor

click to enlarge Garza will headline the living memorial-slash-roast at LOL Comedy Club on Dec. 29. - JESS CASTRO
Jess Castro
Garza will headline the living memorial-slash-roast at LOL Comedy Club on Dec. 29.
Exiting stage left has never been part of the plan for local stand-up comedian Larry Garza.

When he was diagnosed with Stage 4 kidney cancer in 2016, the co-founder of the sketch comedy crew Comedia A Go-Go wasn’t about to let the disease steal his spotlight. So, he did the only thing he knew would keep his spirit from breaking: He decided to laugh his way through the situation.

“I know it might sound cliché, but I didn’t want it to beat me,” Garza told the Current in 2016. “I didn’t want to go dark.”

Five years later, Garza is still fighting. He’s gone through countless surgeries and procedures and has experienced several setbacks, all while keeping a positive attitude about the future. Even when the cancer spread to his brain, Garza wasn’t about to give up.

This year, he started dialysis treatment after doctors removed his last remaining kidney. Earlier this month, he took the stage at a comedy club for the first time since February 2019. He wanted to get in a little practice for his next endeavor.

Now, Garza is preparing to headline his own memorial, a Wednesday, Dec. 29 event that will double as a Comedy Central-style roast and a fundraiser. He’s invited more than a dozen of his comic and non-comic friends to take the mic and give him an old-school verbal beatdown. Full disclosure: Larry and I became friends after I wrote a cover story on him in 2016. I will also participate in the upcoming roast.

Garza got the idea for a living memorial-slash-roast when he started receiving palliative care, he said, to “keep him comfortable.” At this point, he was told that he should start making funeral arrangements.

But instead of planning a memorial where “everyone comes up and says nice things” about him, he wanted his friends to roast him. During the initial planning stages, his wife Andee said something that took everything to a whole new level.

“She said, ‘You know you don’t have to be dead to do this,’” Garza said. “I chuckled, but now it’s actually happening, and I will be there. A roast is the biggest honor a comedian can get. It’s your friends making fun of you in a harsh way, but it’s coming from a place of love.”

Along with being ridiculed by his comrades, Garza was intrigued by the idea of attending his own memorial. He remembered something his grandmother used to say when someone would bring her flowers. She always thanked them for giving her flowers while she was still alive, so she could enjoy them, instead of taking them to her grave.

“That’s always stuck with me,” Garza said. “The celebration of life needs to happen when someone is alive, so they can enjoy it. I want to actually be there, not be there in an urn.”

Plus, Garza added, he’ll get to follow roast protocol and return fire when all the roasters finish taking their shots at him. In essence, he’ll have the last word — and what stand-up wouldn’t crave that?

“Before this event was planned, I was just going to record something from the hospital bed and hope the people I was roasting were there [at my funeral],” Garza said. “I was hoping they didn’t die, too!”

“I knew he would want to put people back in their place,” his wife Andee added.

Garza doesn’t envision dying anytime soon, but he thinks it’s something everyone needs to plan for, whether or not they’re sick. Not only will going through the process lighten the heavy burden that would be left behind for a grieving family, but it also gives someone like Garza the chance to customize his memorial as he sees fit. He’s abandoned the idea he had five years ago of being buried in a Dracula costume.

“I have all the plans on record,” Garza said. “Don’t bury me in a suit. Put me in a Comedia A Go-Go shirt, black hoodie, jeans and a Spurs hat.”

While a word like “legacy” sounds a bit “narcissistic” to Garza, he hopes that when he finally sheds his human form and drops the mic one final time, he’ll be remembered simply as “that hilarious San Antonio comic” — a comedian whose sense of humor, even during his darkest days, inspired those around him.

“Life is an ass-kicker for everybody,” he said. “But you have to laugh about it and celebrate it while you’re here.”

$15, 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 29, Laugh Out Loud Comedy Club, 618 NW Loop 410, (210) 541-8805,

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