As the Stomach Turns

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As the Stomach Turns was a parody of soap operas, most notably a play on the title of a very popular soap at the time, As the World Turns, and was featured on The Carol Burnett Show.

The vignette's premise was to describe, in great detail, the problems of a thirtyish woman named Marion (played by Carol Burnett), who lived in the town of Canoga Falls. The vignette dealt with problems that were more likely to be seen on a soap opera than in real life.

For example, Marion's niece Raven (played by Bernadette Peters in a guest spot) came to visit her and was possessed by the devil, Marion assumed, because Raven was such a nice girl normally. The town exterminator/freelance exorcist (played by Tim Conway, using the same faux-Swedish dialect that he would use to play character Mr. Tudball) was forced to exorcise the demon from her body, a story that was eventually done, in all seriousness, on Days of our Lives decades later.

The vignette also touched on stereotypical aspects of production values in American soaps. Many times, Marion forgot what she wanted to say, reminiscent of the times when soap operas were broadcast live and actors routinely forgot their next line. Marion also answered the door either too soon or too late when someone rang her doorbell. Other times, she would miss the correct time to answer the phone, saying "Hello" before the sound effect came for it to ring. On live soap opera productions, these were big problems; due to the live nature of the show, they happened fairly frequently, and were subsequently spoofed at length on The Carol Burnett Show.

In addition to the missed cues, the skit was notorious for overusing loud and plangent organ music, a reference to a time when soap operas would have in-house organists play dramatic music as well as the show's theme song (when this skit first ran, organ music was still in wide use on the serials). Organ music was eventually discontinued in the mid-1970s, around the time The Carol Burnett Show wrapped up its run, so when the skit is seen in syndication today, it brings back a sense of production technique that is now seen by many younger soap viewers as archaic and outdated.

Traditional soap operas have little use for child-age characters, either dropping them from the plot line shortly after they are introduced or unnaturally aging them into adulthood (or, more recently, into the teenage years). For example, a young character might be sent upstairs to put on his shoes and never be referred to again. The sudden dropping of young characters was humorously spoofed in As the Stomach Turns by Marion's daughter (played by Vicki Lawrence) arriving at the door holding a baby and announcing, "Hi, Mom. I've had a baby," and immediately dropping the baby (a doll) into the umbrella stand next to the door.[citation needed]

The skit was famous for the parody ending in which the announcer would ask foreboding, progressively nonsensical questions about the characters while focusing on their puzzled reactions.

Trivia[edit]

  • In her 1996 memoir, "As My World Still Turns", actress Eileen Fulton, who has starred on the CBS soap As the World Turns for over four decades, claimed credit for coming up with the concept for "As the Stomach Turns". Fulton stated that when she was contacted in the early 1970s to be a guest star on the Burnett show, she suggested a parody of a soap called "As the Stomach Turns". Ultimately Fulton ended up not appearing on the Burnett show, but the "Stomach Turns" sketch did.
  • Cher appeared on an episode of "As the Stomach Turns" as Pocahontas Pirelli, "the town half-breed, half-Indian, and half-dressed," which was play on her hit song of the time - "Half-Breed." She came in wearing a Native American headdress and a bikini top.

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