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Backstage Report: Fey's Big Praise, Chenoweth's Big Headache, Abdul's Big Diss?

Kristin Chenoweth Mathew Imaging/Getty Images

Tina Fey was all over Neil Patrick Harris, in a good way. The Amazing Race was all over American Idol, in a different way. Paula Abdul was here, even though she wasn't. And Kristin Chenoweth, who single-handledly saved Pushing Daisies from obscurity, was in need of medical assistance. Seriously.

The surprising backstage doings—and sayings—at the 61st  Primetime Emmy Awards:

5:35 p.m.: Jon Cryer is amped—and being lit for "his bit." As you know, if you're watching the telecast, the show cut back here live to the pressroom. Because, you know, there's nothing more exciting than reporters! Sitting! Typing! Occasionally asking an actor what he's wearing—and why!

The bit doesn't happen for a bit, so I ask Cryer what kind of sweater-vest he's wearing—and why, good lord, why! It's a Moschino, the Two and a Half Men man reports. It was featured in a magazine ad that caught his eye. And it's hot. As in, really, it's hot.

Cryer loves talking about his hot vest. When another reporter asks why this was his breakthrough year, he chalks up his win to "wearing a sweater-vest on one of the hottest days of the year—it forced me to sweat and really earn this."

For those keeping score at home, Cryer is now the 2,578th award-winning actor who "did not think [he] was going to win at all."

Jon Cryer Mathew Imaging/Getty Images

Cryer finally does his bit. As you know, if you're watching the telecast. And as you may also know, it didn't get much in the way of laughs. Says Cryer after the camera light goes off, "So that was the bit. I hope it was worth it."

Working with a former party animal isn't as exciting as working with a current party animal. Cryer reports, "I am working with Charlie Sheen during the most boring part of his life, and I hate it.

Kristin Chenoweth, who teared up on stage, is still tearing up back here. "No, I wasn't expecting to cry [during her speech]," she tells us haltingly. "I wasn't expecting to win."

Chenoweth is in genuine mourning for Pushing Daisies, and I gather Pushing Daisies fans know the feeling.

Asked if she'd like to next add an Oscar to her award-show collection, Chenoweth gives the only truthful answer: "That wouldn't suck."

The "2009" specs modeled by Chenoweth during the telecast were stunning, and I, of course, have to know where she got them. Amy Poehler, she tells me. It seems Poehler goaded on her fellow Emmy nominees at a pre-Emmy party last night: "We're the funny girls," Poehler told them, per Chenoweth. "We have to do them."

And yes, Vanessa Williams not wearing glasses was part of the joke, Chenoweth assures us.

Oh, boy. Chenoweth's tearing up—again. This time, she's talking about her mom, "a four-time cancer survivor," she tells us. 

Oh, good. Chenoweth's got a Coke and a smile, and she's laughing on her way out of the interview room. I was kinda worried there wouldn't be any Kleenex around if she needed them what with hot-vest Cryer sweating everywhere.

• UPDATE: OK, so the Coke thing initially struck me as notable because nobody Chenoweth's size (meaning small to not there) drinks full-on, corn-syrup Coke—unless somebody has a very good reason. And, as it turns out, Chenoweth did. After leaving here, Chenoweth was seen by paramedics for a migraine scare. E! Online's Marc Malkin says Chenoweth was treated very briefly at the backstage gifting lounge. "She took some Excedrin and drank some Coke to feel better. I never saw her laying down," he reports. And in short time, Chenoweth was chipper enough to hit Twitter about the experience. "im warding it off [the migraine] w meds then gonna hit the town!," she tweeted. "thx 4 ur love n well wishes!!!"

Toni Collette Matthew Imaging/Getty Images

• 6 p.m.: Toni Collette isn't getting choked up over a stinkin' Emmy. The savvy Australian views the award as job security—something that'll maybe keep United States of Tara on Showtime longer than Jennifer's Body will live in theaters.

Sorry, the above was a completely gratuitous Diablo Cody diss. You have to understand, it's been a slow night. I've been sitting back here for hours now, and Collette's the only star who's dropped so much as a PG-13 cuss word. ("It's all s--t," Collette said, and since I was busy taking an unfair swipe at Cody at the time, I'm not sure what Collette thinks is "all s--t.")

7 p.m.: Alec Baldwin has won two years in a row now for 30 Rock, so he's more chatty than Chenoweth-y. He tells us he likes to see plays in London ("My friends call me the whore of Mayfair"); offers an overview of New York politics; oh, and becomes the 2,579th award-winning actor to insist "you never, ever dream you're going to win—ever, ever, ever."

The Outstanding Miniseries winners of Little Dorrit all look pretty tall. In case you were wondering.

Jeff Probst Mathew Imaging/Getty Images

You know why Jeff Probst is an Emmy-winning reality host? Because he's real. Last year, the open-necked one was honest about the bust that was the Emmy telecast's five-host format, even though he was one of the hosts. Tonight, he's telling it like it is about his success ("I got lucky")—and The Amazing Race's. "You can't argue against Race," the Survivor says. "It's a good show…[But] I'm sure for the other shows nominated it's a little frustrating."

Probst has a suggestion on what do about The Amazing Race's amazing Emmy-winning streak in the reality competition category. "Do an Oprah," he says, referencing how the talk queen now withholds her name from consideration after dominating the Daytime Emmys.

Probst, by the way, does not think tonight's Emmy show is a failure. Says the truth-teller: "The irony to me is I'm very good friends with Neil [Patrick Harris], and I'm very happy for him, thinking that's the way to host."

Um, so about Probst's suggestion that The Amazing Race "do an Oprah"? Don't hold your breath, American Idol. "I'm going to discuss this with my committee here," executive producer Bertram Van Munster says, gesturing to his Emmy-toting colleagues, "but it's unlikely."

If I had to guess why Amazing Race will stay in the Emmy race, I'd say it's to make sure Idol keeps losing. The Racers seem to love lording the awards over the Nielsen champ. Consider Van Munster's response to a question about whether he worried Idol would beat his show this time out: "I thought the show that really had a shot at it was Dancing With the Stars." As they say in France, "Meow."

Director Bruce Gowers is Idol's lone Emmy winner tonight, so he gets all the Paula Abdul questions. "I think there'll be a lot more fun on the show than there was before," Gowers says of the upcoming Ellen DeGeneres administration.

Wait a second! Was the Paula Abdul administration not fun, I ask Gowers? "It was wonderful to work with Paula," he says, adding with the tact of a diplomat and/or someone who's never worked on The Amazing Race, "Paula was always the unexpected."

Jessica Lange Mathew Imaging/Getty Images

• 7:35 p.m.: Jessica Lange's in the room. And everybody else standing behind her, from fellow Emmy winner Ken Howard to seminal filmmaker Albert Maysles (who codirected the original Grey Gardens), is just standing behind her.

A reporter feels moved to inform Lange that she's in "great physical shape," and you thought I was exaggerating when I told you her movie starness was unsettling the room.

• 8 p.m.: Cherry Jones is getting drilled—drilled—on the particulars of 24's new season. "You know," Jones says very calmly and carefully, "I never know how much I can say."

Jones completes her interview session without being escorted from the premises by the Men in Black, so I guess she handled that well.

If you thought Michael Emerson gave away the secret to Lost with a coded message in his acceptance speech, then you don't know Hawaiian well at all. Responding to a query from a reporter, Emerson informs us he said nothing more mysterious on stage than "thank you very much."

Playing an inscrutable character on prime-time television has its advantages. "People tend to be terrified of me," Emerson says. "But I like that they're polite to me."

The unflappable Emerson is, well, unflapped when asked if he fears falling prey to the so-called Lost "jinx." "I think unemployment is always scary, and I think we all fear it, rightfully…Something like that is coming my way," Emerson says, adding, "but thank you."

Tina Fey, 30 Rock Cast Matthew Imaging/Getty Images

8:40 p.m.: Tina Fey makes it unanimous: This year's Emmys was not last year's trainwreck. "I think Neil Patrick Harris did an excellent job," the 30 Rock winner says.

30 Rock's next dream guest star? No, not Harris. Although perhaps only because Meryl Streep's name came to Fey first: "I think she would be a great love interest for Alec."

OK, two questions about Fey's acceptance speech. First, what did she mean when she said the Comedy Series category was "a nail-biter?" Answer: She meant just that—she says she thought all the Internet buzz about her show repeating meant her show wouldn't repeat. Second, did she really mean to slam Jay Leno when she made a passing, nonglowing reference to talk shows? Answer: I don't know, because Jane Krakowski's No. 1 fan hogged the mic.

"Every time you open your mouth and sing, you are so amazing," the No. 1 fan began. Krakowski at least was amused enough to ask the reporter where he lived. "Israel," he replied. "I'm moving there," Krakowski shot back. 

Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston isn't really impressed that, due to the expanded nominee field, he beat more actors this year than last in winning. "Maybe if I physically beat them, then I would feel the joy in that," he says.

Glenn Close just said "asshole." Actually, the Damages maven just called herself an asshole. And about time, too. I really appreciate Ms. Close and Ms. Collette doing what they can to make up for the evening's lack of Kanye West.

Jon Hamm didn't win, but Mad Men did—again—so he gets to become the 2,580th award-winning actor (if only by association) to insist, "We're just shocked, surprised and incredibly honored."

Look, as long as nobody else here needs to see the paramedics, it's all good.

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Get all the arrivals, winners and fashion in our 2009 Emmys total coverage.

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