It's Four O'Clock (In The Morning) Somewhere

A new website devoted to pop cultural references to 4 a.m. is itself gaining a bit of pop culture status. John Rives, who created the site and calls himself an expert on the "worst possible hour" of the day, tells NPR that even Shakespeare invoked 4 a.m. (in four different plays).

ARUN RATH, HOST:

A new website popped up recently that caught our eye. It's called The Museum of Four in the Morning.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (as Character) Well, you should've come to the face party. We didn't get home till around 4 a.m.

RATH: The site gathers clips of the seemingly endless pop culture references to 4:00 a.m., from movies to TV...

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: I woke up at 4:00 a.m. by accident.

RATH: ...to music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: (Singing) Four in the morning.

RATH: It's all been collected by this guy.

JOHN RIVES: It's probably safe to say that I'm one of the top 4 a.m. experts in the world.

RATH: That's John Rives. Everyone just calls him Rives.

RIVES: One, my collection must be among the top. And two, there's no second place, dude. You know what I mean? Like, it's me. I'm the guy.

RATH: Rives is a poet and performer. And the story starts in 2007 when he was invited to give a TED talk.

RIVES: And I thought, wow, what if I did a talk that was cockamamie? What if I was an expert on something that was inconsequential?

(SOUNDBITE OF TED CONFERENCE)

RIVES: This is a recent comic strip from the Los Angeles Times. The punch line? On the other hand, I don't have to get up at 4:00 every single morning to milk my Labrador.

RATH: Rives presented himself as an expert on 4 a.m. He pulled together examples from "The Simpsons" and Bill Clinton's autobiography, evidence of a 4:00 a.m. conspiracy.

(SOUNDBITE OF TED CONFERENCE)

RIVES: I know a coded message when I see one.

(LAUGHTER)

RATH: It was a joke, that's it. But when the TED talk went online, people started sending him more and more examples, some obvious ones like the Faron Young song...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IT'S FOUR IN THE MORNING")

FARON YOUNG: (Singing) It's four in the morning and once more the dawning...

RATH: ...some esoteric.

RIVES: There's a book called "Grilled Cheese at Four in the Morning" for people with juvenile diabetes.

RATH: And then stuff Rives had never, ever heard of.

RIVES: Crochet Today magazine from the fall issue of a couple years ago with an adorable crocheted alarm clock which is clearly set at 4 o'clock.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IT'S FOUR IN THE MORNING")

YOUNG: (Singing) But it's four in the morning and once more the dawning just woke up the wanting in me.

RATH: At first, it caught him off guard.

RIVES: This is crazy. What am I going to do with all this stuff? But then, I honestly started to get a major, major curatorial mojo.

RATH: Now he says there is something special about that hour, or at least the idea of it.

RIVES: Pretty clearly, it's the one time where you are either up too late or you've gotten up too early.

RATH: It's a popular shorthand across genres and even centuries.

RIVES: "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" has three 4 a.m.-references. But Shakespeare's got four different plays with them, "Cymbeline," "Henry IV," "Richard III," "Measure for Measure."

RATH: We did a little digging of our own, and it wasn't hard to find references in the NPR archives.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

GUY RAZ, HOST:

She actually rolled out of bed at 4 a.m.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: ...shot at 4 a.m.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: ...at 4 a.m.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

...bowling at 4 a.m. You're pointing to the clock, it's 4 a.m.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: (Singing) Four in the morning came without a warning...

RATH: Rives says that now you've heard about the 4:00 a.m. phenomenon, you'll start to see it everywhere. And, he says, keep the submissions coming.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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