Maybe you’re one of those people who has a gift for making people laugh. Perhaps on a first date, you effortlessly inspire everything from chuckles to guffaws. Congrats on that. But let’s say you’re more like the rest of us, who really, really want to amuse the folks we meet at events and parties or go out with on dates… but just don’t know how. Then this advice is for you: listen up as five comedians share their tried-and-true tactics for making folks laugh.

Funny Fundamental #1: The “bait and switch”
From: Andy Vastola, a comic who’s appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman
“The ‘bait and switch’ is often used to keep the other person on his or her toes and to prevent the conversation from getting stale. There are two basic steps to the ‘bait and switch’ technique. Step one: deliberately misinterpret something your date says. Step two: answer with a statement that’s a play on what’s been said. For example, your date may ask, ‘How do you like the scones?’ (This is the bait). Your response: ‘I don’t know; I’ve never seen The Scones in concert. Are they good?’ (This is the switch). This is a win/win situation. If your date laughs, it means that person has a sense of humor and is a keeper. If not, he or she thinks you’re a bonehead and will do the breaking up for you.”
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Funny Fundamental #2: The callback
From: Dan Allen, stand-up comic on Comedy Central’s Premium Blend
“Show your date that you’re able to laugh at your mistakes — and bring back a funny moment throughout the night — with a technique called ‘the callback.’ For example, one time I accidentally mispronounced ‘Pinot Grigio’ as ‘Peanut Gringo,’ much to the amusement of my date (and our waiter). Then, throughout the evening, I occasionally inserted intentional mispronunciations — like ‘Fill-ette Migg-non’ — into the conversation. It showed that I could make fun of myself and be creative at the same time. A word of warning: use this technique only three times in one night — after that, the joke gets old, and there’s a fine line between being hilarious and just reminding your date you messed up.”

Funny Fundamental #3: Character voices
From: Ophira Eisenberg, stand-up comic and a panelist for Us Weekly’s Fashion Police
“Pump up your anecdotes with fun character voices to get your date more interested and laughing. We’re not talking about Daffy Duck impressions — stick to mimicking the real-life characters in your story. Trust me, the time you got pulled over for a speeding ticket will be so much funnier if you give the cop an oafish voice. And don’t worry if you can’t master an accent or if it’s not a good impression — it’s the effort that counts! However, don’t risk trying an impression of your date while you are still on the date. Save that for years down the road.”

Funny Fundamental #4: The save
From: Christian Finnegan, panelist on VH1’s Best Week Ever, a tongue-in-cheek roundup of pop culture
“A ‘save’ is when you create an awkward situation by accident and then alleviate your blunder by saying something funny. For instance, you might go on a 10-minute tirade about how much you loathe Billy Joel only to have your date tell you she’s seen him in concert 14 times. At this point you may be tempted to apologize, but don’t. You said what you said — equivocating just makes you look weak. To ‘save’ this situation, you need to take your argument to absurd proportions, and say something like, ‘Obviously you’re unaware that Billy Joel cheated my entire family out of our fortune.’ This renders the whole conversation ridiculous, and therefore harmless. And by not immediately apologizing, you display a blend of confidence and independence. 10 points for you!”

Funny Fundamental #5: The “yes, and…” tactic
From: Carmen Lynch, prior comedian/contestant on Last Comic Standing
“The ‘yes, and...’ technique involves simply building on a statement your date makes in order to move the conversation to an absurd new level. For example, if your date takes one look at the restaurant bill and says it’s so high he’ll have to rob a bank to cover it, don’t just let his comment sit there. Take it one step further by saying, ‘Sure, robbing a bank sounds like a good idea — and there’s one just down the block. How about I drive the getaway car?’ If, however, you aren’t digging the guy, definitely don’t ‘yes, and...’ his offer for a second date. End the improv scene right there!”

Elise Nersesian is a New York-based writer who covers love and relationships. Luckily, her current beau keeps her in stitches pretty much nonstop.