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 sketch was created by show writers Kenny Solms and Gail Parent.[1] The Carol Burnett Show introduced the series during its first season in 1967–68 and continued to air new installments for the remainder of its 11-season run, through its final season in 1977–78. However, the final installment of "As the Stomach Turns" would not 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.


The sketch's premise was to describe, in great detail, the problems of a woman in her 30s named Marion (played by Carol Burnett), who lived in the fictional town of Canoga Falls. The first installment aired on the 21st episode of the first season on February 12, 1968.[2] As introduced by Lyle Waggoner, it was supposed to be the final episode of a 15-year long soap opera, and in this sketch Marion's last name was Clayton.[3]

The sketch 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-Romanian 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 sketch 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 sketch 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 sketch 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.

One of the sketch's recurring characters is Marion's "ne'er-do-well" daughter (played by Vicki Lawrence) who arrives at the door holding a baby (a doll), usually says "Don't you recognize me mother? I'm your daughter," then leaves after giving the baby to Marion who immediately stashes it in the umbrella stand.[4] This was a parody of the fact that traditional soap operas have little use for child 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 or her shoes and never be referred to again).

The sketch also marks the first appearances of Harvey Korman's Mother Marcus character, who had also become a recurring resident of Canoga Falls, as well as Tim Conway's oldest man character.[5]

The sketch 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.


  • 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 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.[6]
  • Cher appeared on an episode of "As the Stomach Turns" as Pocahontas Pirelli, "the town half-breed: half-Indian, and half-dressed," which was a play on her hit song of the time, "Half-Breed." She came in wearing a Native American headdress and a bikini top.
  • In an early sketch, Carol Burnett opens the door to find Harvey Korman as Mother Marcus for the character's first appearance on the show. When rehearsing the sketch, Korman never appeared in costume but spoke in the voice. When Burnett opened the door in dress rehearsal it was the first time she had actually seen him dressed up as the character. Burnett's reaction (pausing, struggling to regain her composure before slamming the door in his face, then cracking up when she opened the door again to move the script along) was completely genuine.


Season Episode Airdate Title & Description Guest stars
Season 1 Ep 21 February 12, 1968 Marion's friend Victoria's long lost son is found after 15 years Martha Raye, Betty Grable
Season 2 Ep 6 November 4, 1968 Marion and her widow friend Laura come back from a funeral Lucille Ball, Eddie Albert, Nancy Wilson
Season 3 Ep 5 October 20, 1969 Marion is planning on sending her grandfather away to Sun City Tim Conway, Ken Berry
Season 3 Ep 6 November 3, 1969 Marion's brother Teddy comes for a visit and announces he's engaged to Miss Lily the "town naughty lady" Gwen Verdon, Pat Boone
Season 4 Ep 3 September 28, 1970 Marion's friend Joyce announces she's a kleptomaniac Nanette Fabray, Nancy Wilson
Season 4 Ep 11 November 23, 1970 Marion's rich friend Louise and the Canoga Twins come over for a visit Dyan Cannon, Paul Lynde
Season 4 Ep 21 February 15, 1971 Marion's friend Estelle announces she's a werewolf Totie Fields
Season 4 Ep 26 March 29, 1971 Marion tells her friend Renee that she is broke, and Felix Murdock the banker comes to foreclose on her house Nanette Fabray, Paul Lynde
Season 5 Ep 3 October 6, 1971 Marion's friend Jinx Vandenberg suffers from bad luck Carol Channing, Steve Lawrence
Season 5 Ep 7 November 3, 1971 Marion's visitors are town masochist Mel Torment and Mother Marcus Bing Crosby, Paul Lynde
Season 5 Ep 8 November 10, 1971 Marion's modelling friend Suzie Shrimpton comes back to Canoga Falls Bernadette Peters, Cass Elliot
Season 6 Ep 8 November 1, 1972 Marion goes to the circus Jerry Stiller, Anne Meara
Season 6 Ep 20 February 17, 1973 Marion's friend David is deathly afraid of women Valerie Harper, Tim Conway
Season 7 Ep 9 November 10, 1973 While desperately seeking a problem, Marion meets her long-lost twin sister Petula Clark
Season 7 Ep 20 February 16, 1974 Marion's niece Raven is possessed by the Devil Bernadette Peters
Season 8 Ep 11 December 7, 1974 Don Provolone comes to blackmail Marion Steve Lawrence
Season 9 Ep 3 September 27, 1975 Pocahontas Perrelli visits, and Canoga Falls has a new hairdresser, Warren Pretty Cher
Season 10 Ep 20 February 26, 1977 Marion comes back from her daughter Jamie's funeral, only to realize that she's not dead but bionic N/A
Season 11 Ep 21 March 5, 1978 Marion's daughter comes back to Canoga Falls with an alien Steve Martin, Betty White
Carol Burnett & Company Ep 1.4 September 8, 1979 Marion is surprised by a visit from Pamela, a "Miss America" pageant winner, on the lam because she wants to hold the title forever and refuses to give up her crown Sally Field


  1. ^ Burnett, Carol. "Featurette: Fabulous Firsts". Carol Burnett Show: The Lost Episodes Limited Edition (7 DVD Collection) (Interview). Interviewed by Carol Burnett Show: The Lost Episodes Limited Edition (7 DVD Collection). |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  2. ^ IMDB. "The Carol Burnett Show (1967–1978) Episode #1.21". Retrieved April 11, 2017.
  3. ^ "022". The Carol Burnett Show. February 12, 1968. CBS.
  4. ^ "Vicki Lawrence". Archive of American Television. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  5. ^ Burnett, Carol. "Featurette: Fabulous Firsts". Carol Burnett Show: The Lost Episodes Limited Edition (7 DVD Collection) (Interview). Interviewed by Carol Burnett Show: The Lost Episodes Limited Edition (7 DVD Collection). |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  6. ^ Fulton, Eileen; Atholl, Desmond; Cherkinian, Michael (1996). As My World Still Turns. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 1-55972-274-6. OCLC 31606927.