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 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

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

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Sci­ence of Willpow­er: 15 Tips for Mak­ing Your New Year’s Res­o­lu­tions Last from Dr. Kel­ly McGo­ni­gal

The Ramones Play New Year’s Eve Con­cert in Lon­don, 1977

A New Year’s Wish from Neil Gaiman

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


by | Permalink | Comments (20) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (20)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • 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

  • 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 —

  • 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

  • Ted says:

    Just like Spain and oth­ers, “It’s a Won­der­ful Life” is always shown at Christ­mas in the US. Din­ner For One, I had nev­er heard of, and it can­not een be seen off this site.

  • TheSteves says:

    Being Ger­man and hav­ing seen this dozens of times since my child­hood I can say that it’s good and sim­ple humor but just by watch­ing it every year at New Year’s Eve it has become a loved tra­di­tion and that’s a val­ue beyond its actu­al con­tent.

  • Lars says:

    They tried show­ing the coloured Ver­sion one time many years ago on Nor­we­gian Tele­vi­sion, It caused an out­rage and Peo­ple demand­ed the black&white Ver­sion be shown. They also tried not show­ing It I believe result­ing In more out­rage.

  • Sam Longoria says:


  • Chris says:

    I’d love to know how many actu­al­ly watch this. I grew up in Ger­many and I know it’s a thing but tbh I don’t know any­one who’d actu­al­ly sit down and watch it. Makes me won­der if it hasn’t become cheap tv chan­nel fill­ing mate­r­i­al by now.

  • incog99 says:

    In the late 1960s or ear­ly 1970s Clorice Leach­man did this skit on her com­e­dy show and it was very fun­ny. I won­der where that tape is.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.