Amy Poehler made out with Bono, Tina Fey mocked George Clooney's taste in women and Matt Damon emerged, bizarrely, as the night's theme.
But at the end of a madcap Golden Globes (Fey toasted it as "the beautiful mess we hoped it would be"), the major honors soberly ended up with the favorites. David O. Russell's con-artist caper "American Hustle" led with three awards, including best film comedy. And despite missing out in the other six categories it was nominated in, the unflinching historical drama "12 Years a Slave" concluded the night as best film drama.
"A little bit in shock," said director Steve McQueen, before shrugging the lyrics to the old gospel song sung in the slavery epic: "Roll, Jordan, roll."
Russell's 1970s Abscam fictionalization "American Hustle" had the better night overall, winning acting awards for Amy Adams (best actress drama) and Jennifer Lawrence (best supporting actress). Best picture was the only award for "12 Years a Slave," which came in with seven nominations, tied for the most with "American Hustle."
Awards were otherwise spread around.
Matthew McConaughey took best actor in a drama for his performance in the Texas HIV drama "Dallas Buyers Club." Leonardo DiCaprio, a nine-time Golden Globe nominee, won his second Globe for best actor in a comedy for his work in "The Wolf of Wall Street."
Alfonso Cuaron won best director for the space odyssey "Gravity," a worldwide hit and critical favorite.
The night's biggest winners may have been hosts Fey and Poehler, whose second time hosting the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Beverly Hills, Calif., ceremony was just as successful as last year's show (a six-year ratings high with 19.7 million viewers).
The pair came out with a spree of punch lines, dishing them around the Beverly Hills Hilton, much to the delight of its starry audience. Damon, Meryl Streep and, naturally, George Clooney were among the targets. Fey particularly had the crowd roaring with a description of "Gravity," which stars Sandra Bullock and Clooney.
"George Clooney would rather float away in space and die than spend one more minute with a woman his own age," said Fey.
Many of the night's surprise winners were literally caught speechless. Andy Samberg (best actor in a comedy series, "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"), Elisabeth Moss (winner of best actress, miniseries or movie, for "Top of the Lake"), Robin Wright (best actress in a TV series, drama) and even Poehler, herself (best actress in a TV series, comedy), appeared particularly shocked to win and each stumbled through their thank yous.