Early in the evening Jeff Daniels, who beat Cranston for the actor in a drama Emmy, left quietly down a back escalator. He had his Emmy in hand but no entourage in tow. Meanwhile, inside the West Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center, Cranston fielded dozens of fan requests.
There were 3,800 guests inside the hall, which was decorated for the night's theme of "Enchanted Evening," but spotting Cranston was no difficult feat thanks to the cluster of people that always surrounded him.
The "Breaking Bad" star has won an Emmy before for his performance as high school teacher turned drug kingpin, Walter White, but the show itself had never won for best drama series until Sunday. And that was just fine with Cranston.
"It means more to me than the individual one because it really represents the entirety of the show — the collaborative art form that it is," Cranston said in between posing for photos. "And a little piece of this is for every single person that works on the show, and that's hundreds of people."
Was the night bittersweet for Cranston now that the AMC hit is screening its finale on the 29th?
"It's mostly sweet," Cranston said, looking around at the vast expanse of the party, which stretched the length of a football field and was double the width. "Especially now. It's sweet. This is fantastic. I love it!"
Over at the bar, "Daily Show" correspondent Jason Jones tried to order a drink but became distracted by the fact that the bar, sponsored by Grey Goose vodka, was made of ice.
"Did the bar break? Did the bar actually break?," he asked, clearly tickled as chunks of ice and water fell to the floor beside him.
Past dozens of flower-laden tables filled with plates of filet mignon and red-wine-braised short ribs, Cranston's "Breaking Bad" costar Aaron Paul goofed off out front with pal Rich Sommer, who plays ad man Harry Crane on "Mad Men," and Matt LeBlanc from "Episodes" smoked a cigarette nearby with friends.
Sommer summed up many people's feelings about the night when asked about its highlight.
"'Breaking Bad' winning," he said. "Hands down, that was it."
"I loved the juxtaposition with the JFK assassination and the Beatles," Oliver said to fellow "Daily Show" correspondent John Hodgman. "I mean, it made complete sense. I also think CBS needs to understand that they showed a snuff film. They showed Lee Harvey Oswald being shot to death."
Asked why he thought the choice was made to show the clip, Oliver was sanguine.
"It's pretty obvious. It's about the fact that JFK being murdered was bad but the Beatles made it OK," he said. "
"I had forgotten that JFK had been assassinated," Hodgman added helpfully.
"Because of the Beatles," Oliver insisted. "The Beatles came and swept it all away."
"Because she loves you and you know that can't be bad," said Hodgman.
"It's the most inexplicable thing that's ever happened at an awards show," Oliver concluded as guests in ball gowns and black ties streamed past him toward a sea of waiting limos, ready to be swept through the night to the many other waiting parties.