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“We had a fascinating conversation, and he’s a great guy,” Mr. Gillespie said. “[Democratic strategist] Donna Brazile was also on the show, and she invited me over for a good Cajun meal with her sister. I talked with the producers for a long time, too. I realized I was the lightning rod on that panel, but they treated me totally squarely. It was a very positive experience.”

4. Do make your point: Ms. Holmes jokes that appearing on “Real Time” can be like being the conservative pinata at a liberal party. The problem with her analogy? Pinatas can’t swing back.

According to Mr. Lazio, Mr. Maher allows his conservative guests to make their points — provided they have some. The last time Mr. Lazio was on the show, Mr. Maher argued that during Mr. Obama’s presidency, public employment had decreased, something the president should get credit for.

Mr. Lazio countered that Mr. Maher’s numbers were misleading, because while the number of state and local government jobs had gone down, federal employment was roughly the same.

“I basically pointed out that the stimulus package let state and local governments keep larger payrolls than were sustainable in the long run, and now we were seeing the effects of that,” Mr. Lazio said. “If you make your points and you have facts, Bill accepts it. He won’t just label you and dismiss you. Occasionally, he’ll even say, ‘Good point.’ “

5. Don’t be a comedian: Simple. Mr. Maher is a pro at making people laugh. The typical conservative panelist is not. Act accordingly.

“I would put up a big blinking caution sign: Do not go down the comedy road,” Ms. Holmes said. “It will end badly. If you’re Chris Buckley or P.J. O’Rourke, maybe you can get away with it. But if you’re not known for your wit or comedic timing, ‘Real Time’ is not the place to try to change that.

Bill does a stand-up show almost every weekend. He has road-tested his material. He’s polished and practiced. And if you’re put on with a celebrity guest who is also a crowd-pleaser, your best bet is to focus on what you do best. It’s like the conservative economics principle of comparative advantage.”

So: Don’t be a humor hero.

Once you’ve mastered these basic self-defense principles, you may find you’re ready to survive — perhaps even thrive — as the conservative offering on “Real Time.” The television gab-o-sphere can be a shrill, angry, partisan place. “Real Time” is different. For conservatives, Ms. Holmes said, it’s an opportunity to engage in a longer, looser political conversation. To sharpen one’s debating skills. To reach out to a large and unfamiliar audience.

“It’s funny how often I’ve been approached by gay men telling me in hushed tones that they are secretly conservative,” Ms. Holmes said. “Or Hollywood people will tell me that I just watched you on the show. Apparently that is where actors get their political news.”