The CMA Awards may be all about the red-hot live performances and the eye-popping fashions (with a few awards thrown into the mix), but eight-time co-hosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood have hooked viewers from minute one with an opening segment filled with topical humor with a country twist.
The pair opened the show last year with banter about George Strait's farewell tour, Taylor Swift's transition to full-on pop star, and parodies of Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton songs, updating the lyrics to reflect the then-trending topics of naked selfies and Ebola. They also managed to cleverly reveal that then-expectant mom Underwood was having a baby boy. For the comedic pair's 2015 co-hosting gig, Paisley kept his promise that the presidential race would be a prime target and that the hack of the Ashley Madison cheating website would gift them with plenty of comedic material.
Here are the funniest bits from the opening of the 49th Annual CMA Awards:
1. Paisley coined a new term, "Sam Hunt-ing." While pointing out Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood in the audience, he noted that CMA nominee Hunt "talks in his songs and then starts singing and the younger demographic just totally eats it up." He also pointed out the many planned collaborations for the show and when the pair spotted Justin Timberlake, Paisley said, "I hope he does my favorite song. It's a Christmas song about a beautifully wrapped package." As Timberlake mugged for the camera, Brad added, "What’s the name of it? I can't put my finger on it. Or can I?" For the record, the song is "Dick in a Box," and Timberlake wisely chose not to perform it.
2. The Star Wars-inspired opening, in which Underwood played "Princess Carrie Fisher" and Paisley was "Guitar Solo," also cast Little Big Town as the Cantina Band, Darius Rucker as Storm Trooper and Luke Bryan as "Garth Vader." Paisley questioned why Bryan wasn't playing Luke Stagefaller." "This was so much cooler," Bryan said with a cheesy grin. "And Garth really wanted to be Chewbacca." The cast was scrambling because the whole Star Wars bit had been shut down, but there was more to come.
3. Toward the end of their opening segment, Paisley and Underwood were whisked back to the galaxy far, far away when a storm trooper interrupted them, revealing himself to be William Shatner. Shatner then riffed on the whole Sam Hunt-ing thing, asserting that he had already invented the "musical" technique known, rather unfortunately, as "Shat-ing." After getting bleeped, Shatner had to be warned it was a live show, then demonstrating his Shat-ing skills on a very brief rendition of Little Big Town's "Girl Crush." Stopping in mid-Shat, the actor then asked, "I'm working for free, right" before bolding going where many celebrities had gone before him, to the gift lounge.
4. The dated use of the term "cray cray" aside, the parody of the Patsy Cline hit, "Crazy" threw in references to the year's most unexpected newsmakers, with lyrics about man-buns, tomatoes (as in female country artists), McDonald's all-day breakfast and Donald Trump's presidential poll numbers. The line "Bruce Jenner's a babe now" probably won't win any support from GLAAD, however.
The elephant in the room was also addressed when the co-hosts noted the number of high-profile celebrity splits, from Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, Hallee Berry and "what's-his-name" to "the one that really rocked our world." Viewers expecting to hear the names of Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert were instead treated to a nice plug for ABC's The Muppets, as that show's stars, Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog were shown not sitting together (having recently announced their "separation"). Paisley then spoke up saying, "On a completely unrelated topic, 'Howdy, Blake.'" Shelton smiled and laughed, even as the jokes about his divorce from Lambert continued.
5. As promised, the Ashley Madison site made the cut, with Paisley asking, "Have you heard that duet that Blake did with Ashley Madison?" and Carrie protesting, saying, "No, no, no, that was Ashley Monroe." Miranda Lambert was thankfully spared, but another shot at the now-single Shelton came with the plug for another website, farmersonly.com
Parodying the Hank Williams classic, "Your Cheatin' Heart," Paisley sang, "Your cheatin' site never said beware/ It just said life's short, have an affair/ Bored with your wife and your sister, too/ Your cheatin' site will tell on you."