Have you ever won a marathon? No, we’re not talking about one of the 26.2 mile sort. That’s beginner stuff. We’re talking about sitting on your butt, watching episode after episode after episode after episode after episode of The Simpsons until you’re seeing double Disco Stus. Two California residents, Jeremiah Franco, 22, and Carin Shreve, 33, broke the Guinness World Record for longest continuous television viewing by absorbing 86 hours and 37 minutes of Homer’s exploits at an Ultimate Fan Marathon hosted by Fox from Feb. 8-12 in L.A. (The animated comedy presents its 500th episode on Sunday.) We caught up with the winning eye-hard fans, who were among 100 contestants and now are both $10,500 richer.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start with this question: How are you feeling?
CARIN SHREVE: You know, I actually slept the entire time until just now.
JEREMIAH FRANCO: I’m feeling good. Just waiting for the check now.
Are you both hardcore Simpsons fans? What’s the craziest Simpsons-related thing you’d done prior to this?
CS: I would definitely say I’m a hardcore Simpsons fan. I’ve been watching it since they were on The Tracey Ullman Show, because I used to actually watch that show back in the day. The other competition I did was when the movie came out over where I live, we had a competition where you had to draw yourself as a Simpsons character and the winner would get 40 passes to the preview of the movie and I actually won. It’s pretty cool.
JF: I’m definitely a big Simpsons fan. I’m pretty much the exact age of The Simpsons – the actual show premiered three months after I was born. I’ve been watching it my entire life. In terms of crazy stuff, this is the first competition I’ve done.
What was your first indication that this wasn’t going to be easy?
JF: The second night, about 45 hours in—that’s when it really kicked in. That’s when I started to use the 5-Hour Energy drinks. That’s when it hit me that this was going to be harder than I thought. It was my body trying to put me into an unconscious state and me fighting that.
CS: I kept on waiting to hit that wall and I never hit it. And it was really kind of tripping me out. One guy came up to me about two and a half days in and said, “I gotta ask you, are you an android? You haven’t moved for two and a half days!” And I just kept on going and kept on going, and at about I think hour 80, I was sitting there, like, “Oh, waiting a minute! I think I’m starting to feel tired!” So I’d get up and start running in place.
When did you start to notice the smell? I heard there was an aroma–
CS: Oh, dear god yes.
JF: Uh, to be perfectly honestly no I was not aware of that at all. Maybe it was me.
CS: Unfortunately I think I was around the area that it was in. If whoever is watching the Guiness Book of World Records tape doesn’t fall over on the ground laughing, I would be really surprised. There were points where I would literally get up from gagging and not keep my eyes off the screen and have to move to an area where there was nobody in it, just so I would not puke. I would say it was about hour 14.
What was your eating and drinking strategy?
JF: There were burgers two days. There were these chicken sandwiches that were pretty good actually, and then McDonalds for breakfast every morning. I tried to stick to water mostly. But I would drink some pop just for caffeine and eventually switched to the 5-Hour Energies.
CS: My plan was I wasn’t going to eat any meat because I know meat slows you down. So I went with fruit and salad, and I just ate a little bit here and there because I didn’t want to weigh my body down. As far as drinking, I went with water, Coke and Mountain Dew.
What kind of breaks were you given?
CS: Every two hours, you got a 10-minute break for the first two and a half days, until it got down to a certain amount of people. And then they gave you a choice of taking a five-minute break every hour or a 10-minute break every two hour. I went with the 10-minute break every two hours.
JF: I did the same thing. It was definitely better to get as much viewing as possible done and then have that 10 minutes to cool down and not stare at a screen.
CS: What I’d do was: I’d run to the bathroom, I’d wash my eyes, I’d run back and I’d stretch.
Would you call this experience enjoyable?
CS: Honestly, I really had a great time. It was kind of like being a kid again. There’s not that many opportunities when you become an adult that you get to be a kid again, and that’s kind of what it was. I loved it.
JF: I would say it was definitely enjoyable at first, when there was a big community of Simpsons fans all together, watching the show, and I remember there were a couple times that songs would come on in the show and the whole crowd would know it and we’d all start singing it. But I think toward the end I really just wanted to get out of there.
CS: This one guy did get really delirious next to me, though. He went into another world. (laughs) He started asking stuff like, “What’s up with the car that we’re in?” And you’d be like, “Uh, dude? We’re not in a car. We’re sitting in a couch.”
How worried were you about nodding off?
JF: If they caught you asleep, you were out. I definitely caught myself almost getting to that point several times, so I’d have to stand up and do jumping jacks. I was playing bongos on an Apple box that I’d found there just to keep myself moving and just to keep my brain conscious.
CS: That really never happened to me, that’s why I was really surprised.
Did you have any revelations from this experience? Did you learn anything different from consuming the show in this environment?
JF: I’d actually done this a year before. I’d gone through the entirety of the series in sequential order. Not in one sitting obviously. But seeing them [like this], you just notice little things, certain things in the art direction. Items that were prominent in earlier episodes are subtly placed into the frame in later episodes so there were a couple of small things like that I did notice. There’s a Bart Simpson doll that was made during one of the episodes and you see it later on. I can’t remember the exact episode — honestly it’s kind of all blurred together.
CS: My family watches The Simpsons every night. We go to sleep to The Simpsons. So I’ve pretty much memorized the entire 14 seasons (on DVD). [But] I tried not to think I’ve ever seen this before, and watched it as if it’s a new episode every time. That’s where I put myself. And it was kind of fun. Because I’d start laughing and be like “Oh my gosh, that’s so funny! Look at what Homer just said!” And that’s how I got myself through it.
Fox stopped the marathon at about 30 minutes after the record was broken, ending it in a tie—
CS: 37 minutes and 2 seconds.
Excuse me. Were you guys disappointed? Relieved? How much longer could you have gone?
JF: I was expecting to go a little longer. And honestly by that point, I had eaten breakfast and I was feeling a little bit better. I probably could have gone for a couple more hours or so. I at least wanted to get it to an even 87 [hours], but whatever. It works.
CS: When they stopped it, I was kind of shocked. I thought there was a problem at first. I wanted to keep on going, I really wanted to see how far I could go. Especially because daylight was about to hit. Once the daylight hit, it was really easy to stay up. Honestly, I think I probably could have hit 100. But I understand. It was day whatever and stuff needs to be done.
When the marathon ended, what hurt the most?
JF: My eyes were killing me. The whole time I was using Visine just to hydrate them but my eyes were a wreck after that.
CS: Definitely. My eyes were insane. My man was like, “Carin, your left eye doesn’t look right!” Veins popping everywhere. Yeah, it wasn’t too good.
Were your friends and family impressed by your achievement or did they just think you were insane?
CS: Oh my goodness, I’ve been getting so many phone calls and emails and texts.
JF: I’ve been getting endless phone calls, text messages, Facebook, everything just blowing up, people congratulating me. I went to film school so it’s kind of interesting — all of the kids from my school are like, “This is the best news that anyone has had with their degree so far!”
When do you see yourself next watching a Simpsons episode?
JF: We were at premiere party for the 500th episode last night and I got to see that, so I’ll still see the new ones when they come out. But I have no plans of going back and watching season 1 again anytime soon.
CS: Actually, I hate to say it but right when I got back in the hotel we stuck The Simpsons on and I went right to sleep.