At this year’s CMA Awards, cohosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood included the following mild and even semi-complimentary gag about Taylor Swift’s relationship with young Conor Kennedy (transcript credit to Entertainment Weekly’s Grady Smith):
Brad: “I can’t keep track of all these trades… Peyton Manning is a Bronco.”
Carrie: “Tim Tebow is a jet.”
Brad: “The greatest trade of the year had to be the Kennedy family, who somehow traded Arnold Schwarzenegger for Taylor Swift.”
At this point Carrie started whispering something to Brad, presumably that Taylor and young Conor had broken up. That led to (thanks again @EWGradySmith):
Brad: “Are they ever gonna get back together?”
Brad: “Are they ever getting back together again?”
Carrie: “Like, never.”
Check out the video here (the monologue starts at 3:25, the Taylor/Conor part starts at 4:55)
It was a harmless gag meant in good fun, and Brad & Carrie have said over and over again (for example here at the 8:05 mark) that their priority is not to be mean-spirited in their monologue because they want to be able to run into the people they make fun of backstage and for that not to be a problem. But many people (like Entertainment Weekly’s Ken Tucker) noticed the cameras didn’t pan to Taylor during that part of the monologue despite panning to everybody else Brad & Carrie ribbed at the appropriate time.
There’s a tradition of fun reaction shots at awards shows, including the CMAs. Last year for example, Faith Hill’s sense of humor totally enhanced Brad & Carrie’s bit about whether the Tim McGraw and Faith Hill Barbies were anatomically correct (see video here) and Lady Antebellum was great when Brad “accidentally” mistook them for Lady Gaga at the 2010 CMAs (see video here). This year, Willie Nelson’s reaction to Carrie’s crack about “doping charges” made the joke even funnier. The suspicion that Taylor didn’t look amused was confirmed this week in Country Aircheck when Aircheck’s Chuck Aly asked CMA Awards show Executive Producer Robert Deaton why the cameras didn’t pan to Taylor during that portion of the monologue:
Aircheck: You didn’t cut to Taylor Swift during the monologue jokes about her. Was that on purpose?
Deaton: I’m not in the truck, so I don’t see all the cameras. I’m backstage dealing with time, Brad, Carrie and anything that comes up we might need to add. Paul Miller, the director, said he couldn’t tell whether she thought it was funny or not, and we always want to be respectful if we’re not sure. We’re not trying to hurt anyone with the monologue, we’re just trying to be funny and entertaining. There are so many things that have me waking up wondering if we’re pushing things too far, like last year with the Tim and Faith dolls. You never know for sure how they’re going to take it. Most of the time, I think we hit it pretty well. In that case, Paul couldn’t tell, so he didn’t want to cut to her. It’s better to err on the side of being conservative.
Now Swifty herself has chimed in via the New York Times
New York Times: At the CMA awards earlier this month, Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley cracked a joke about your reported breakup with Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s son Conor Kennedy. But the camera never panned to you.
Swift: They don’t pan to you if you’re not laughing.
Oh come on Taylor. 90% of your songs are about your exes, you actively encourage the guessing game about famous exes with specific references in the lyrics and spelled out clues in the lyric booklet, many of your songs rip on your exes (“Dear John”) and anybody else you perceive as being in your way, and you can’t take a little gentle razzing of your most recent breakup song, a song so ridiculous it was begging to be mocked in the first place? Even if you didn’t think the gag was funny, it wasn’t mean spirited, and it isn’t too much to ask to play along. Look at Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Willie Nelson, Little Big Town, Lady Antebellum, and Sugarland (and many others) for a lesson in how it’s done.
I guess Brad is probably even more grateful now his idea (as per show writer David Wild in the current edition of People magazine’s Country Special) of introducing Taylor’s 2010 CMA “Back To December” performance with a live wolf (since the song was supposed about Taylor Lautner) was nixed.
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