Watch Dinner for One, the Short Film That Has Become a Baffling New Year’s Tradition in Europe

There are myriad New Year’s Eve customs worldwide. In Japan, toshikoshi soba noodles are eaten to bring in the coming year. In North America, finding someone to share a New Year’s Eve kiss with as the clock winds down has become a boon to the romantically-challenged. In Germany, however, a different tradition has taken form: every year on December 31st, TV networks broadcast an 18-minute-long black and white two-hander comedy skit.

In 1963, Germany’s Norddeutscher Rundfunk television station recorded a sketch entitled Dinner For One, performed by the British comics Freddie Frinton and May Warden. The duo depicted an aging butler serving his aristocratic mistress, Miss Sophie, dinner on the occasion of her 90th birthday.




Although four additional spots have been set at the table, the nonagenarian’s friends have long since passed away, and the butler is forced to take their places in drinking copious amounts of alcohol while toasting Miss Sophie’s health. Hilarity, as it is wont to do in such cases, ensues.

Since its initial recording, the clip has become a New Year’s Eve staple in Germany. Although Dinner For One has never been broadcast in the U. S. or Canada, the clip has spread throughout Europe to Norway, Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, Austria, Switzerland, and beyond the continent's shores, to South Africa and Australia. In Sweden, a bowdlerized 11-minute version of the clip has been produced, where, for decency’s sake, much of the butler’s boozing was excised alongside its attendant comedic effect. In Denmark, after the national television network failed to broadcast the sketch in 1985, an avalanche of viewer complaints has guaranteed its subsequent yearly appearance. Although the category is now defunct, the clip held the Guinness World Record for Most Frequently Repeated TV Program. As for why the video's garnered so much attention? No one's really sure. The Wall Street Journal's Todd Buell posits that the sketch's easy to understand English combined with a German longing for security and simplicity may have led to its iconic status. To me, however, it seems that the finely tuned physical comedy translates readily beyond any linguistic boundaries, and simply hit the right note at the right time.

Above, you can view the original 18-minute comedic opus and celebrate New Year’s day in the same way that much of Europe brought in 2014 (don't mind the German introduction — the video is in English). In future years, you can always find Dinner for One in our collection of 600 Free Movies Online.

From all of us at Open Culture to you, have a happy new year!

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A New Year’s Wish from Neil Gaiman

The Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions Read by Bob Dylan

 


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Comments (14)
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  • Wolfgang Ksoll says:

    This video is not open in Germany. Viewers from Germany are blocked from Youtube due to copyright limitations. For not beeing punished for your geographical location you might want consider to use an anonymizer like anonymouse.org.

  • Richard bridge says:

    As I live in the UK, the mystery to me is that it doesn’t ever get broadcast in the UK! I make sure I find at least one of the broadcasts from Germany. As to why it is such a success, it is because it’s humour is timeless!

  • Keneilwe says:

    This film became a tradition on South African television for New Year’s eve. I saw it so many times with my family when I was young. I bought a copy for my parents a few years back they liked it so much.

  • Louise Schwendeman says:

    Does anyone know where to obtain the rights to perform this in the USA?

  • Tatami53 says:

    Was really looking forward to it, but it’s in German with no subtitles, so, I can’t really enjoy it as much as I’d like to.

  • Caroline says:

    the introduction in this clip is in German … the actual sketch is in English

  • Eric Watts says:

    Check out Fischer-Z’s official Dinner For One tribute – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIPjm8y79pA

  • Johnny says:

    We see it every new years in Sweden too.

  • Dan says:

    This is simply non-existent in Spain, no one knows about it. On the other hand,”It’s a wonderful world” with James Stewart is always shown on Spanish tv at Christmas time…

  • Beate says:

    Tatami53, that is not true. Only the introductory words are in German, the film is in English, otherwise it would lose it’s charm and humour! So keep watching beyond the first 2 minutes and enjoy!

  • Jennifer Vanzella says:

    SBS please never stop showing Dinner FOr ONE every New Years Eve, we watch it every year & laugh just as hard as we did every previous year. Thank you.

  • MarySmiley says:

    Dinner For One is the most hilarious sketch my husband and I have ever seen. It is very witty and very cleverly executed. We even told our 2 grown up sons about it. They also think it is amusing. Just dome light hearted humour in this troubled world we all now seem to live in. Happy 2018 to everyone, I hope it is s kind year for us all. 👋😊🍷

  • Stef says:

    “It’s a wonderful LIFE”! It’s a Christmas staple in Italy too, I watched it again this Christmas Eve 🙄 On the other hand, I discovered that Vittorio De Sica’s fantastic “Marriage Italian Style” with Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren, is a Christmas tradition on Russian tv. I like this intercultural exchange of filmic gifts!

  • Jacqueline says:

    Does anyone know the playwright agents for performing Dinner for One
    by Lauri Wylie? I’ve found a Danish company but cannot complete form as in Danish. Is there an Australian agency
    Regards
    Jacqueline

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