Piven took aim at the five reality hosts who helped open the ceremony in what could charitably called a rambling way, saying, "What if I just kept talking for 12 minutes - what would happen? That was the opening."
The crowd at the 60th annual Primetime Emmy Awards laughed heartily, not a good sign for the hosts that included Ryan Seacreast of "American Idol."
Smart was honored as best supporting actress in a comedy series.
"I'm very proud to be an actor," Smart said.
A tribute to memorable TV dialogue of the past was delivered by the stars of today in an opening clip package.
"One of these days, Alice, pow, right in the kisser!" Helen Mirren said, quoting Jackie Gleason's line from "The Honeymooners."
As the show opened, Howie Mandel and his fellow hosts riffed about a lack of material for the ceremony.
"We are on Sarah Palin's bridge to nowhere," Mandel said.
They then turned to slapstick: "Boston Legal" star William Shatner came on stage to help Tom Bergeron rip off co-host Heidi Klum's modest suit to reveal hot pants and more skin.
Retro '60s drama "Mad Men" and legal thriller "Damages" took a shot at making Emmy history Sunday as basic cable's first best-series nominees.
For nominee Tina Fey of "30 Rock," the big question on the red carpet: Did she think she would be enlisted to impersonate GOP vice presidential hopeful Sarah Palin on her old show, "Saturday Night Live," once Palin was nominated?
"I had a sinking feeling," Fey said, with her hair down and no glasses - looking unlike Palin.
With TV fans filling the red carpet bleachers in front of the downtown Nokia Theatre, the show prepared to get under way with a lineup that reflects changes across the dial.
But for fans lucky enough to see the pre-show festivities, all that mattered was the moment.
Ashley Sieving, a 22-year-old Louisiana State University student from New Orleans, said she started looking for information on after-parties the minute she found out she and her mom, Terri, were going to be on the bleachers courtesy of a sweepstakes contest.
They both came with gowns and accessories, but no invites.
"I will hold a cable, carry cakes, anything," to get one, Ashley said, sporting freshly manicured nails and a new spray-on tan.
Emmy producers hoped viewers at home have the same level of enthusiasm.
Last year's ceremony drew the second-smallest audience on record amid a general downturn in award-show viewership.
FX's "Damages" and AMC's "Mad Men" represent a mixed blessing for the ceremony because they're relatively undiscovered by viewers, said Emmy executive producer Ken Ehrlich.
"You're almost introducing a broader audience to some of those shows. It's a challenge," Ehrlich said. But it also meant the ceremony could be "fresher. ... you're playing with some new teams and that can be fun."
The attention also may prove a boon for "Mad Men" and FX's "Damages," which on a good night each attract just a sliver of the Emmy audience that last year measured 13 million.
For "Mad Men," the nominations turned up the buzz on a sophomore show that has critics swooning. The meticulously produced take on 1960s America through the prism of Madison Avenue was the most-nominated drama series with 16 bids, including one for star Jon Hamm.
The drama has seen a steady week-to-week ratings increase over last year, with a recent episode up 70 percent in viewership and touching 2 million, series creator and executive producer Matthew Weiner said. The Emmys could be the catalyst for more.
"Just seeing us there would help, obviously, but winning would be better," Weiner said.
"Damages," FX's legal thriller with Glenn Close, also drew a best-series nod and one for its movie-star lead.