CNN) -- "John Adams" set an Emmy record Sunday night, with 13 wins overall -- eight Creative Arts awards and five on the prime-time presentation, including outstanding miniseries.
HBO's "John Adams" has won 11 Emmys overall. The miniseries received 23 nominations.
1 of 4 more photos » The HBO program, which led all nominees with 23 nods, also earned trophies for Paul Giamatti, Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson and writer Kirk Ellis.
Another HBO presentation, "Recount," also did well, winning best screenplay for a made-for-TV movie and best made-for-TV movie overall.
"The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" ruled the Emmys among variety/comedy/music programs, with "Colbert" winning for its writing and "Daily" winning best overall.
The award was the sixth straight for "The Daily Show."
A predecessor in the topical "Daily"/"Colbert" tradition, "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour," earned an Emmy 40 years late.
Comedian Tommy Smothers, onetime "Smothers Brothers" scribe Steve Martin pointed out, left his name off the list submitted to the Emmys for the writing award in 1969 so as not to inflame their attitudes at a time when the ever-topical Smothers show was the subject of controversy. When the show's staff won, Smothers was left out.
Smothers accepted emotionally, concluding his speech, "There's nothing more scary than watching ignorance in action. So I dedicate this to add the people who feel compelled to speak out ... to speak truth to power."
Alec Baldwin won best actor in a comedy for "30 Rock."
Jeremy Piven won his third straight Emmy Sunday night, for best supporting actor in a comedy for his performance in "Entourage."
Piven poked fun at the odd opening by five reality show hosts before thanking the audience for his award.
"What if I just kept talking for 12 minutes -- what would happen? That was the opening," he said. Blog: Behind the scenes at the Emmys
The five hosts began the 60th annual Primetime Emmy Awards by doing ... nothing.
Ryan Seacrest, Tom Bergeron, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel and Jeff Probst -- with the 5-foot, 9 ½-inch high-heeled Klum towering over her fellow hosts -- spent a few minutes doing some bizarre vamping, admitting they hadn't prepared an opening. They followed a gracious Oprah Winfrey, who paid tribute to the television medium by observing that "television helped open up my world." Gallery: See the stars on the red carpet
Ricky Gervais received more laughs than the hosts for a segment in which he berated Steve Carell for stealing the Emmy Gervais won last year.
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"Have you been to see 'Ghost Town' yet?" he demanded, referring to his new movie. "I went to see 'Evan Almighty.' Give me my Emmy."
In a mild surprise, Zeljko Ivanek won best supporting actor in a drama for "Damages," defeating "Mad Men's" John Slattery and former Emmy winner William Shatner. Interactive: List of major Emmy nominees »
But going in to the night, the story belonged to basic-cable series, particularly "Mad Men" and "Damages." Both shows had a shot at becoming the first basic-cable show to win best drama at the TV awards. "The Sopranos," became the first pay-cable series to win the night's biggest honor in 2004, a feat it repeated last year.
The strength of the cable series -- and the presence of five reality-show hosts as emcees for the night's awards -- symbolizes a TV season, and perhaps an era, when the medium's watercooler shows are no longer the exclusive province of the broadcast networks.
"Mad Men," the AMC show about an advertising agency in early-'60s New York, has already gotten a boost from its 16 nominations. Ratings have increased as much as 70 percent over last year, series creator Matthew Weiner told The Associated Press. The show won four Emmys in technical categories September 13.
Other series up for best drama include another cable series -- Showtime's "Dexter," which also had an airing on CBS -- ABC's "Boston Legal" and "Lost" and Fox's "House." Watch a talk with some of "Dexter's" people »
Series up for best comedy are HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Entourage," NBC's "The Office" and "30 Rock" and CBS' "Two and a Half Men."
On the red carpet, favored colors for the women included black, bright red and -- for Mariska Hargitay and Teri Hatcher -- dazzling shades of yellow.
Nathan Fillion, a star of "Desperate Housewives," joked (presumably) that his black-on-black tuxedo came from a friend's closet. "He has very good taste," he told CNN.
A relaxed Denis Leary, a star of the HBO movie "Recount," told CNN the awards show was "like a big party," given all the nominees he knew.
But he didn't expect to win: "We [probably won't] get to take the paperweight home at the end," he said.
The show airs from downtown Los Angeles' Nokia Theatre.