Power Players

Melissa McCarthy wakes up at 4:30 a.m. to watch TV reruns—I tried for a week and it made me miserable

I got up at 4:30 a.m. to watch TV like actress Melissa McCarthy for a...

Like a number of highly successful people, actress and producer Melissa McCarthy starts her day early: She's up at 4:30 a.m. The Oscar-nominee likes to ease her way into the day by making coffee and watching reruns of old TV series like "Knight Rider" from the '80s and "The Incredible Hulk" from the '70s.

"I treat myself right," McCarthy tells Taffy Brodesser-Akner of The New York Times.

Only after enjoying a little TV does McCarthy start interacting with the outside world. She picks up one newspaper, The Los Angeles Times, which is delivered to her front door, and then reads another, the New York Times, on her iPad.

She balances out the heavy news, and maintains perspective, by reading National Geographic. "Let's talk about polar bears and the toucan because it's so random and someone is taking these beautiful pictures," she tells Brodesser-Akner. "Let's also remember how amazing the whole planet is."

I've already spent a week trying Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey's morning routine, which includes waking up at 5, so now I decide to try McCarthy's. Half an hour can't make much of a difference, right?

Here's how it goes:

Coffee with Bill Bixby


Turns out, 30 minutes can make a difference. Getting up in the 4s as opposed to the 5s is rough: I feel as if I'm being rudely awakened in the middle of the night.

I snooze until 4:40 and tiptoe into my kitchen, where I laid out a coffee station the night before. All I have to do is boil water and pour it on top of the pre-measured coffee grinds in my French Press.

I get back under the covers with my cup of coffee and fire up season one, episode one, of "The Incredible Hulk," which first aired in 1977. It's in this moment when I realize I know nothing about the premise of the show.

Diving into a new television series is exciting enough to wake me up a bit but, by the end of the 94 minutes, I can barely keep my eyes open. The show ends up cutting into most of my morning and I only have time to skim the NYT and flip through National Geographic before getting ready for work.

I grab a second cup of coffee on my way to the office and power through.

The author, around 11 a.m. on Tuesday


Today is a bit of a disaster: I sleep through all three alarms I had set — 4:30, 4:33 and 4:36 — and get up at 5:30 a.m. The only good thing about oversleeping is that the realization hits hard enough to really wake me up. I am highly alert and pop out of bed to make coffee before starting the first episode of "Knight Rider," which McCarthy tells the Times Magazine is a show everyone should re-watch. I've never heard of it until this week.

Today's episode is a more reasonable length, 45 minutes, but since I got such a late start, the morning is nearly behind me by the time I finish. I speed-read NYT headlines and flip through a different National Geographic.

The adrenaline I felt after realizing I'd missed my alarm doesn't last. I drink two more cups of coffee, an espresso shot and a 5-hour energy, all before noon. An afternoon matcha tea gets me through the work day. I leave the office feeling unproductive and with a pounding headache.

Getting up in the 4s as opposed to the 5s is rough: I feel as if I'm being rudely awakened in the middle of the night.


After yesterday's morning mishap, I'm determined to be up at 4:30 on the dot. I snooze until 4:36. Close enough.

I get under the covers with my homemade coffee and decide to switch things up during today's viewing party. In addition to being one of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood, McCarthy started a production company in 2013 with her husband, and she seems to draw inspiration from the old reruns she watches. The Hulk, for example, is "great," she tells the Times Magazine. "The music. There's. So. Much. Score."

I want to watch something that may inspire my work or help me think more creatively. Since I'm learning how to edit and produce videos for our site, I head to YouTube and watch videos from a variety of popular channels. I try to pick up on things like music selection, camera angles and the general flow of a video.


The author, sometime around 4:30 a.m.

It's Day Four and I'm showing no signs of adjustment to the early mornings. Part of the problem is that I'm not getting to bed early enough, and as a result, not getting much sleep: Five hours, on average, compared to my usual eight. The lack of sleep is really taking a toll.

This morning, I spend less time watching videos and more time reading the NYT. I typically don't look at the news until I get to the office but, by doing it at home, I have one less thing to do at my desk and can jump into work projects sooner.

While I'm still tired, I feel more prepared for the day.


I'm so excited to never have to wake up this early again that today is actually the easiest day to get out of bed. I make my coffee and, having genuinely enjoyed "The Incredible Hulk" on Monday morning, I decide to again watch Bill Bixby morph into a green monster and throw trees around.

After a week of rising like McCarthy, here's what I liked and didn't like about the routine.

The pros

Easing into the morning was a relaxing and refreshing. I'm not used to starting the day with a relaxing activity like watching TV: I sleep in my gym clothes so I can be out the door and jogging within minutes of my alarm going off.

While watching TV first thing in the morning was a bit strange, it was cozy to get under the covers with a homemade cup of coffee and not have to worry about anything besides when Bill Bixby would lose his temper and transform into a green beast.

A handful of billionaires, CEOs and celebs are up at dawn to check email, meditate or work up a sweat, and there's something refreshing about a highly successful person like McCarthy not doing "productive" things right away. As she put it, "I treat myself right."

The time from 4:30 to 7 a.m. were the quietest hours of my day. Besides there being fewer New York City noises like jackhammers and sirens, I didn't have digital noise like text messages, emails or social media notifications to deal with at this hour. It was a time I had all to myself, to actually slow down, listen and think, which felt like a luxury.

I was extra-appreciative of these quiet hours when reading the news and National Geographic. Without distractions, I got through more articles in 20 minutes than I usually do in an hour.

The author, at work

The cons

Waking up before 5 a.m. felt unnatural. It was so early that most mornings my body couldn't even register the alarm! It was similar to that feeling when you wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom: You're half-asleep, a bit delirious and not sure if you're dreaming or not. But instead of getting to go back to sleep, I had to make a cup of coffee and mentally prepare myself to start the day.

I felt off from the moment I woke up and never fully adjusted throughout the day: I was drinking far too many cups of coffee, I was hungry for lunch as early as 10:30 a.m., I hit a wall most days around noon and I had virtually zero energy after work to exercise or meet up with friends.

I was drinking far too many cups of coffee, I was hungry for lunch as early as 10:30 a.m., I hit a wall most days around noon and I had virtually zero energy after work to exercise or meet up with friends.

I was less productive at work. If I learned anything this week, it's that I'm not one of those people who can power through the day on four to five hours of sleep.

The "3 p.m. crash" tended to hit me around noon, meaning I had just about three hours in which I felt 100 percent. By the end of the day, I was simply exhausted. I wound up leaving the office earlier than usual, right at 5 p.m., and feeling less accomplished overall.

I missed my own routine. While it was nice to not have to wake up and exercise right away, there were mornings when I really wanted to swap out a rerun for a jog. And as much as I appreciated easing into the day, I still felt an urge to start checking things off my to-do list and get to work right away.

After all, I haven't exactly made it the way McCarthy has. If I'm up super early, shouldn't I be using that time to hustle and get things done?

Melissa McCarthy
Gregg DeGuire | Getty Images

Would I wake up like Melissa McCarthy again?


I do think there's value to taking time in the quiet hours of the morning to slow down and ease into the day. While I won't be watching 45-minute episodes every morning, I realize I also don't have to run out the door to exercise immediately after my alarm sounds. My compromise may be to enjoy a cup of coffee before launching myself into the world.

While morning TV isn't for me, I do like the idea of doing something to stimulate creative thinking right away. And for me, my best thinking time tends to be while I'm jogging.

As for waking up at 4:30 a.m., that part was miserable. Of course, if I stuck with the routine long term and adjusted my sleep schedule so I was getting more hours at night, I might be able to eventually adapt McCarthy's schedule. But for now, my 6:15 alarm will do just fine.

Don't miss: Jack Dorsey wakes up at 5 a.m. and walks 5 miles to work—here's what happened when I tried that routine for a week

Like this story? Subscribe to CNBC Make It on YouTube!

What it's like to walk 5 miles to work like CEO Jack Dorsey
make it

Stay in the loop

Sign Up

About Us

Learn More

Follow Us