As the Stomach Turns

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"As the Stomach Turns" is a series of comedy sketches parodying the soap opera As the World Turns featured on The Carol Burnett Show, with one installment airing on Carol Burnett & Company. The Carol Burnett Show introduced the skit series during its first season in 1967–68 and continued to air new installments of the skit for the remainder of its 11-season run, through its final season in 1977–78. However, the final installment of "As the Stomach Turns" wouldn't air until September 8, 1979 on a different four-week summer series titled Carol Burnett & Company. This was the only installment of "As the Stomach Turns" that did not air on The Carol Burnett Show which had completed its run almost a year and a half earlier on March 29, 1978.

Premise[edit]

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 Jamie (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.

Sketches[edit]

Season Episode Airdate Title & Description Guest stars
Season 1 Ep 21 February 12, 1968 Martha Raye, Betty Grable
Season 2 Ep 6 November 4, 1968 Lucille Ball, Eddie Albert
Season 3 Ep 4 October 10, 1969 Tim Conway
Season 4 Ep 3 September 28, 1970 Nanette Fabray
Season 5 Ep 3 October 6, 1971 Carol Channing, Steve Lawrence
Season 5 Ep 7 November 3, 1971 Bing Crosby, Paul Lynde
Season 5 Ep 8 November 10, 1971 Bernadette Peters, Cass Elliot
Season 6 Ep 8 November 1, 1972 Jerry Stiller, Anne Meara
Season 7 Ep 9 November 10, 1973 Petula Clark
Season 7 Ep 20 February 16, 1974 Bernadette Peters
Season 8 Ep 11 December 7, 1974 Steve Lawrence
Season 9 Ep 3 September 27, 1975 Cher
Season 11 Ep 21 March 5, 1978 Steve Martin, Betty White
Carol Burnett & Company Ep 1.4 September 8, 1979 Sally Field

References[edit]