UCB’s ‘Lasers in the Jungle’ sketches its comic path with help from its East Village audience

The long-running Thursday night show has attracted comedians like Janeane Garafalo and Jim Gaffigan.

Stepping into the “Lasers in the Jungle” comedy show in the East Village, you never know what you’re in for — except maybe some free beer.

Named after a lyric in the Paul Simon song, “The Boy in the Bubble,” the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) brings in the talent behind various comedy shows, including “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee,” “Conan,” “Funny or Die,” and “The Late Show” each Thursday night.

At times, celebrity comedians make an appearance, such as Janeane Garofalo, Wyatt Cenac, Jim Gaffigan, Melissa Villasenor and others.

UCB Theatre East is such an intimate space that it’s easy to feel like it’s a show just for you — and sometimes about you. When hosts Katina Corrao and Sean Crespo, and in-house comedian Matt Little, aren’t offering up free cups of beer to excited audience members, the stand-up comedians get into conversations with audience members, who become part of their bit.

Between sets, it’s likely you might get a sighting of a dirty Santa Claus with a beer gut, be part of a ridiculous game show or asked to join the hosts on stage as the king and queen of lasers (crowns included . . . and taken away).

We spoke with husband-and-wife team Carol Harsell and Crespo about the eight-year run of the show and what it takes to be successful.

Is the format of the show always the same?

Carol: We always start off with a sketch or game with a slideshow where the game turns into a sketch. There’s a comic bit in the middle and one at the end.

Sean: But every show has a king and queen of lasers, and we take away their crown. They’re really sad. We stand them up, give them a crown and Matt Little sings a song.

Carol: Anything we can do to engage the audience and get them involved in the show makes the laughs come easier.

What’s different about this comedy show compared to others?

Sean: Matt is our weatherman shouting in the wind. If we do a bit like that, he will get a broken umbrella. It’s a big team effort.

Carol: It’s a labor of love. It’s what we love, and we’re introducing audience to these performers. It’s super playful and we put a lot into it. I feel like our show makes the audience feel like we really want them there. We always have a diverse lineup . . . professionals who write for “Late Night” or who have been in something. It often happens that in a year or two from now you’ll say you saw so-and-so at UCBT East.

Sean: It’s never a bunch of white dudes with beard and flannel, either. I’m already that guy.

This has lasted eight years. What was it like when you started and did you ever think the show would run for this long?

Sean: We’re not the cool kids and we will never be the cool kids — it took us 20 years to break into late night comedy and we had to fight to get this small slice.

Carol: Our first show was eight years ago on Feb. 25, 2010, with Reggie Watts and Christian Finnegan . . . and when it rained, it rained in the room [at the very first venue].

Sean: There was a moped in the showroom because the owner didn’t want to move it. The owner bought whiskey from across the street and poured it into thimbles for you. His biker buddies with dogs would come in.

Carol: We raised $10,000 on Kickstarter to fix the roof and renovate the venue, but a week after, it was shuttered and we had $2,000 of equipment (a projector, a mixing board and a mural by Mindy Tucker) inside. We were so heartbroken. Our friends took it over for three years and when they decided to move on, I came back to produce it.

You two work together on this show and on “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.” How do you do it?

Carol: My best piece of advice is that if you can work it out in a 200-square-foot working space, the rest is cake. When I lived in a studio, I couldn’t get away from that.

Sean: When you share a brain and a heart, that’s what will make it last. Carol’s my comedy life mate.

Carol: We fill in each other’s gaps.

“Lasers in the Jungle” is on every Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. at UCB Theatre East at 153 E. Third St. Tickets are $9 on east.ucbtheatre.com

Shaye Weaver