When Garr was 11 years old, her father died in Los Angeles of a heart attack. She recalled that his death "left us bereft, without any kind of income. And I saw my mother be this incredibly strong, creative woman who put three kids through college—one of my brothers is a surgeon. Any kind of lessons we wanted, we had to have scholarships or sweep the floors. It had to be free. And so we always had to try harder. That was instilled in me very early. " During her youth, Garr expressed interest in dancing, and trained extensively in ballet. "I'd go for three, four hours a day; my feet would be bleeding," she recalled. "I'd take buses all over the city just to go to the best dancing schools. You could just stand there and be quiet and beat yourself up, push the body. " Garr graduated from North Hollywood High School, and attended California State University, Northridge for two years before dropping out and relocating to New York City to further pursue acting. In New York, she studied at the Actors Studio and the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute.