Brad Paisley loves the idea of walking out in front of a crowd without having any idea what he's going to say.

"There's something masochistic about that," he explained with a laugh during a press event at the 2018 Country Radio Seminar in early February. "I love ad-libbing."

Paisley is no stranger to the realm of comedy: Since 2015, the country star has hosted an evening of stand-up comedy in Nashville as part of the Wild West Comedy Festival; in 2017, he debuted his own Netflix comedy special. And even when he isn't operating in the comedy format, Paisley regularly brings his sense of humor into his songwriting; in fact, he says, he loves to bring bits of stand-up material into his live performances.

"There are moments where I'll mess with the audience," Paisley says. "I'll grab someone's cell phone or whatever. It's meant to be funny. It's never meant to be all that serious ...

"I like being able to have an audience that might not necessarily expect that," he adds. "I love being able to entertain people in ways that take them by surprise."

Humor is also a defense mechanism for Paisley, who relies on it to make sure that he's keeping crowds engaged.

"I definitely diffuse with humor," he admits. "It's exhausting for me to try to be cool. For example, there's always a little bit of playing dress-up that goes along with being an artist: You get a stylist, and all of the sudden, you're wearing things you'd otherwise never wear; you're wearing cowboy hats and stuff, and you've just got to think, 'I thought we were supposed to be authentic in this format!' There's very few George Straits out there who really do rope and ride all day, so for the vast majority of us, we're playing dress-up a little, and it feels sacred and important to be able to have a sense of humor about that.

"Once, at the ACMs, I was just sitting there and I thought I looked good," the singer recalls. "Then I noticed Jason Aldean looking over at me and cracking up. So I look down, and there's a tag that reads 30/34, running down the entire length of my jeans. Whoops."

Paisley didn't stay embarrassed for too long before finding the humor in the situation, though: "One of my favorite expressions is that if you're going to laugh about something later, you might as well laugh about it now," he says. "And that's hard to do with 30/34 running all the way down your leg! But comedy is tragedy plus time, right?"

See Brad Paisley's Childhood Photo