“The Flu and the Stage Don’t Mix” is a hilarious skit from the Carol Burnett Show. The video clip of the episode has gained immense popularity for its clever and humorous take on a stage act gone wrong.
In the sketch, Carol Burnett plays Jennifer Fontaine, a stage actress suffering from a cold. Her co-star, Robert Preston Foster, played by Harvey Korman, becomes worried about his chances of becoming a Hollywood star. He recently learned that a movie producer will be watching their show that night. Jennifer assures him they will give the producer a performance he will never forget.
However, things quickly go awry when Jennifer (playing the role of Stella onstage) begins to sneeze and cough uncontrollably on stage. Robert (playing the role of Rodney onstage) tries to avoid her as he is scared of getting infected. However, his attempts at distancing himself from Jennifer only make the situation more comical. The audience is left in stitches as the two struggle to complete their scene.
Carol Burnett and Harvey Korman have incredible chemistry on screen, and their impeccable comic timing is fully displayed in this sketch. From Jennifer’s uncontrollable sneezing to Robert’s exasperated reactions, the two actors keep the audience laughing from start to finish.
One of the funniest moments in the sketch occurs when Doctor Talbot, played by Lyle Waggoner, tries to give Jennifer (playing the role of Stella onstage) a flu shot while she’s performing on stage. His attempts become increasingly desperate, and the resulting chaos is hilarious.
The hilarious sketch also provides a look into the lives of stage actors and performers & sheds light on the importance of performing through an illness. Jennifer’s determination to not let her cold get in the way of her performance is admirable. Still, it highlights the pressure that actors and performers face to never miss a show.
In the end, another actor, playing the guest role of Jennifer’s (Stella’s) onstage husband, shoots her, causing her to fall to the ground. Even while lying still, Jennifer can’t stop sneezing, leading to more laughter from the audience. Finally, Robert gets so frustrated that he asks for the curtains to be pulled down, hilariously ending the sketch.