The Flub: You tell a bad joke (botched punch line or lame delivery).
The Comeback: Without pausing, say, "OK, I know-I shouldn't quit my day job to do stand-up." Then smile and add, "I do have other redeeming qualities. Bear with me."
Why It Works: Self-deprecation shows you know you aren't perfect-and are confident enough to admit it.
The Flub: You fart. And yes, she hears it.
The Comeback: Wrangle the most mortified look you can muster (read: Oh, my God, I never fart) and quote Caddyshack: "Did somebody step on a duck?"
Why It Works: It speaks to her human side-despite what you might hear, girls pass gas every once in a while, too. Plus, if she can't get over it, it's a great screener for weeding out any girls who are overly uptight.
The Flub: You drop your drink or send a chunk of food flying across the dinner table.
The Comeback: Say, "Shit,I didn't get any on you, did I?" Then, follow her lead about how to clean it up.
Why It Works: She sees your initial reaction is to be worried about her clothing, not yours. If she doesn't insist you get seltzer or go to the bathroom to try to wash it out, don't.
The Flub: You run out of money or your credit card is declined.
The Comeback: Act mildly annoyed or surprised at the "mistake," but don't be over-the-top indignant.
Why It Works: Sometimes the bank really does fuck up. And the card's magnetic strip doesn't work. On the same night. Yeah.
The Flub: You get completely smashed. Embarrassingly so.
The Comeback: Call the minute you wake up the next day and—before you even say hello—start with, "I am such an asshole. Will you ever go out with me again?" Then add: "I didn't eat all day/The wine was so good/I forgot how sensitive I am to tequila."
Why It Works: It's happened to her, so she'll understand.
The Flub: You get caught checking out someone else.
The Comeback: Say, "Hey, is that [insert name of celeb with same-color hair]?" with as much excitement as you can manage-and not a drop of lust.
Why It Works: If it's a girl with luscious boobs who catches your eye, your date will be insulted. If it's a girl you claim to think is a star, she'll be interested, too.
The Flub: You hit on something she considers to be a really sensitive topic.
The Comeback: Take a step back in your conversation and say, "But hey, at the end of the day, I really don't know a lot about [x-subject]. I've always wanted to learn more."
Why It Works: In the course of 20 seconds, you go from ignorant asshole to a dude who's misled but at least open-minded.