When I was a little girl, I’d sit in my grandma’s kitchen and listen to my dad and uncle joke around for hours while they ate barbacoa tacos and drank Big Red. They’d poke fun at each other with witty cut-downs and crack themselves up so much that sometimes they couldn’t even breathe enough to finish their own sentences. It’s a special kind of humor—one that’s aggressive and comes naturally. It rolls off the tongue like razor blades at the speed of light. And even if those aggressive razor blades are directed at you, you can’t help but laugh until your sides hurt. It’s an environment that, if you were raised in it, will immediately make you feel like you’re back home.
I got to revisit that same hilarious environment of my youth—only this time it was in Regan Arevalos’s living room with Larry Garza and Jess Castro, the primary members of the local comedic troupe Comedia A Go-Go. These three amigos have been bringing the laughs since 2002 when they first met in college. Over the course of their 13-year friendship, the funny men have gone from community-college clowns to award-winning filmmakers and popular podcasters. The gang recounted their origins and took me on the comedy journey of three dudes who love their city and each other.
BarbacoApparel (BA): Tell me how Comedia A Go-Go started and what exactly it is.
Regan (RA): Joel Settles . . . was doing a variety show . . .
Larry (LG): Called Jester’s Burlesque . . .
Jess (JC): At Café Latino. That was his plan actually. He was going to do a variety show at Café Latino.
LG: From what I understand, it was either too offensive or something of that nature . . . but in the next show he had to change the name from Jester’s Burlesque. He wanted to have a Latino spin and he wanted to have “A Go-Go.” So, Comedia A Go-Go.
RA: It went from being a variety show to just “Hey, we just want to do comedy and not the variety stuff.”
The guys continued with stories of writing sketch comedy for Comedia A Go-Go—often speaking over each other, laughing loudly with each other, and finishing each other’s sentences. More like family than just friends, Larry, Regan, and Jess remember their road together fondly and rely on each other to fill in the gaps of their memories.
Over the next two hours I learned that Comedia A Go-Go started out with one small show on the first Friday of the month and then, due to popularity, progressed to two shows in a small venue on N. St. Mary’s Street in San Antonio. They soon had so many people attending their shows that they needed a bigger venue for performances.
Comedia A Go-Go eventually landed a steady gig at Sam’s Burger Joint. At the time, Sam’s was looking for alternative entertainment for their eclectic customers, and the Comedia A Go-Go sketch comedy troupe was a perfect fit. They were an 11-member act that performed on the third Thursday of every month at Sam’s with a brand-new show every time. They often had stand-up comics warm up the crowd and filled the seats with a cult following of fans that continue to support them to this day. Comedia A Go-Go made Sam’s their home from 2002 to 2006.
LG: They had these big screens and we started doing videos to help give a break to change costumes.
RA: Yeah . . . audios first. . . . We started doing audio sketches, because that’s what people like. They like to listen to things. (Larry laughs)
JC: Audio is the future! (Everyone laughs)
RA: What it really was, was that we needed [audio sketches]. We realized that we needed to change costumes and either it was that you sit there in the dark and wait for us to change costumes, or you sit in the dark and hear these audio sketches.
JC: For us it wasn’t enough to just, like, have you hear music, ‘cause that was boring.
LG: It was a waste of an opportunity to make a joke. . . .
JC: . . . to make you laugh. Also, our audio sketches were, like, cinematic ideas that we were nowhere at the capacity of [being] able to pull off. So our audio sketches were like giant movie trailers, like holy sh*t this could be an awesome movie!
Those audio clips evolved into video clips that eventually became full-length sketches on San Antonio’s public television channel in the form of a show. Larry, Jess, and Regan provided San Antonio’s Public Access viewers with hilarious, quality programming—original sketches and fake commercials. It’s something they’re incredibly proud of to this day. Being voted #1 by the San Antonio Current for best Public Access Show only fed their desire to take their film and comedy projects to the next level.
The next level was, of course, taking those comedy sketches and turning them into films. What followed was a string of award-winning shorts and films. These self-proclaimed “backyard filmmakers” were taking the South Texas film scene by storm and competing against professional production companies and still kicking ass. Their short film LARP won Fantastic Fest’s 2007 film contest and was voted on by Robert Rodriguez himself.
This inspired the guys to produce, direct, and star in their very first full-length feature film. Blood Cousins is a hilarious comedy/horror film that takes you on a journey of laughter and terror. “Blood Cousins serves as the team’s deranged love letter to their hometown of San Antonio and South Texas—all while blending comedy, drama, and horror.” (comediaagogo.com)
JC: But, interestingly enough, whether it was intentional or not, that movie and that mentality of building the characters is also a reflection of our group . . . because, on- stage, over the course of the years, we’ve done some really deplorable things. We’ve done really horrible, sacrilegious, racially charged, just awful things; but, the thing that gets people to stay on board is that, there’s also this fine line of likability to where like, they just get on board because they feel like we’re friends. . . . We make them feel like they’re part of the actual ride, so that when we get to the really horrible stuff, they’re still on board and I think that applies to everything we do.
Amidst the whirlwind of filmmaking and continuing their work as sketch artists and stand-up comics, life for the guys continued to change. They found themselves juggling day jobs and families. Their fans were experiencing the same life changes and were migrating to other cities, finding it hard to keep tabs on the group. Eventually, Larry, Jess, and Regan began producing a podcast called Public Axis.
BA: When did you guys start doing the podcast and how does that come into play?
LG: Well, in the comedy community in San Antonio, there used to be a little bit of a divide between the sketch guys [Comedia A Go-Go], the improv guys [Oxymorons], and the stand-ups. . . . During the process of the movie [Blood Cousins] in 2009, we needed more money, so we started doing a show at the LOL Comedy Club in 2010. We did that for a few years and the comics started coming to us asking if they could be in our sketches because we were right there in the comedy club. But, we liked working with ourselves and we were a majority of chubby, Mexican dudes with facial hair and most of the stand-up dudes were chubby, Mexican dudes with facial hair. So we thought “we’ve [already] got that demographic down” . . . there really wasn’t anything organically we could do. We thought, “we can’t really have them in our sketches ‘cause we rehearse so much. What’s another way we can [work with each other]?” Podcasts were getting big [like] the WTF Podcast . . . but there was nothing in San Antonio. There was nothing. A lot like when we started Comedia A Go-Go. So, we were like “Hey, why don’t we do a podcast? We meet up all the time, we’re always talking about how funny it is when we get together and how we wish we could record it.” People had a lot of fun just hanging out with us and I thought, “You know what, that is a really, really good way to incorporate some of the comedy community, the art community, the poetry community, the music community in San Antonio that’s entertaining and funny. [O]ur fans were getting older [and] having children (fans that were going to Sam’s Burger Joint wouldn’t go into the LOL Comedy Club because they had kids and they couldn’t find sitters—they had jobs).” How can we have those fans that don’t stay up late or the one’s that moved away and are homesick? So we thought, if we do this podcast we’ll be able to reach out to our fans that can’t see us live anymore, branch out to the community, do something funny and still maintain that vibe of us being funny when we hang out. So, we started Public Axis, which was the name of a theater-run show that we did at the Jump-Start Theater.
JC: Another big reason why we started doing the podcast was because when we were doing the movie it took up so much of our time and we kind of wanted to get some of that audience back again that we lost when we stopped doing the live show.
The Public Axis podcast has become a staple to San Antonio podcast fans and has over 2,000 listeners worldwide. Comedia A Go-Go has found a home on oneofus.net, where you can download all their episodes. The group records the podcast three weeks out of the month in Regan’s dining room. As a former Public Axis guest, I can tell you that there is nothing more fun than sitting at that table with the three friends and shooting the shit. Often interjected with wildly inappropriate humor and insights into the comedian’s favorite things, Public Axis is a podcast with topics that everyone can relate to, no matter where you are in life.
In addition to the projects we’ve discussed, you can find one or more of them hosting shows at the Blind Tiger Comedy Club (located in the basement of the Magic Time Machine) every Friday night in San Antonio. The Blind Tiger often features surprise special-guest comics passing through the Alamo City. It’s a hidden gem that should be on your list of things to do in San Antonio.
BA: What’s next for Comedia A Go-Go?
LG: We’re only taking it one year at a time. For now, we’re happy to be big fish in a small pond.
JC: In a pond with people that hate fish.
If you want to laugh until you cry, cringe in bewilderment at their unfiltered comedy, and leave feeling more connected with these funny guys, be sure to catch Comedia A Go-Go on their podcast Public Axis. You can also:
- Visit their website comediaagogo.com
Like them on Facebook
Follow them on Twitter
Download their full-length feature Blood Cousins
And also, be sure to check out their Donkey Lady stories on BarbacoApparel TV!