A man telling a joke to himself in the mirror (Erin Patrice O'Brien | Getty images )

The best way to master an impression is to practice in front of a mirror, according to a study published in Psychological Science.

British researchers videotaped 20 adults as they recited jokes, then asked participants to recreate and photograph four facial expressions featured in their videos. While practicing, some people looked at photos of their attempts, and some rehearsed without any visual feedback. The results: The people who practiced with visual feedback were more spot-on with their impressions, while those who practiced blindly got worse.
"When you can see what each attempt looks like shortly after you've made it, you can better detect errors," says study author Richard Cook, Ph.D., a professor at the
Department of Psychology at City University London. By watching your progress in the mirror, you can associate the physical feelings of certain expressions with what they look like.

But here's the thing: You're probably not an SNL star, and if you copy the people around you all the time, you could find yourself without friends. "If you want to be liked, it's more important to develop humor skills than imitation skills," says Peter McGraw, Ph.D, an assistant professor of marketing and psychology and director of the Humor Research Lab (HuRL) at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Fair enough.

To be the funniest guy at the party--and keep all your friends--start with these pointers: (Looking for some inspiration? Jeffrey Ross gives the details on How to Roast Your Friends.)

1. Tell at least one joke a day.
According to McGraw, most people don't attempt jokes often enough for fear of failure or worse: offending the audience. That's because the root of humor is "benign violation," a situation that simultaneously seems wrong, but harmless. Moreover, it's not easy to nail a joke. To up your odds of eliciting laughs, test new jokes among friends--because they already like you, they'll be more forgiving if a punch line flops. If you must joke with a stranger, imitate his or her body language (it will put them at ease) and show some teeth. "A smile tells your audience that this is a joke, and that this thing that is wrong [the violation] is OK," says McGraw. And if your joke still isn't perceived as funny, or it makes someone uncomfortable? Use this simple save: "I'm just kidding!" Laughing can also can show her you're interested. Click here for more secrets on How Nice Guys Can Impress Women.

2. Start with a complaint, and end in an analogy.
"Most people don't like complainers, but they do like humorous complainers," says McGraw. After all, when you transform something negative into something you can laugh about, it feels less irksome. To craft a joke, identify something that's negative--awful weather, tasteless food, the office loudmouth--and compare it to something unrelated that has similar qualities. McGraw's example: "My Internet connection is as slow as a 4-year old getting ready for bed." It's funny because it's not cool to make fun of 4-year-olds (violation!), but in this context--an article about jokes that's written for adults--it won't hurt a kid's feelings.

3. Make yourself the punch line.
Most standup comedians open with a self-deprecating joke. Why? "It makes him or her seem more human and likeable," says McGraw. Plus, it's easier to laugh at a joke if you like the comedian, because you trust that they have good intentions. That said, never scrutinize your deep-rooted insecurities when you make fun of yourself. Instead, begin with a light topic like the mismatched outfit you threw on in a hurry, or your unrelenting hat hair.

So, comedy isn't the easiest--at least you can still learn how to Improve Your Public Speaking Skills.