New Year Customs: “Dinner for One”
„Der 90. Geburtstag oder Dinner for One“
The same procedure as every year
It’s a bit bizarre when you think about it. A short British cabaret sketch from the 1920s has become a German New Year’s tradition. Yet, although “The 90th Birthday or Dinner for One” is a famous cult classic in Germany and several other European countries, it is virtually unknown in the English-speaking world, including Britain, its birthplace.
Although newer versions have been produced (including a Plattdeutsch radio version and CD versions in other dialects), every year around Silvester (New Year’s Eve), German television broadcasts the classic, black-and-white English-language version filmed in Hamburg back in 1963. All across Germany, from the 31st of December to January 1st, Germans know it’s the beginning of a new year when they watch this annual television event. (You can view the full video below.)
Besides Austria and Switzerland, other countries where “Dinner for One” is also a New Year’s TV tradition include Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Luxembourg, and Sweden. In all of those places the sketch is shown with its original British English audio.
Here’s a brief excerpt:
James: You are looking very well this evening, Miss Sophie.
James: Sie sehen heute Abend sehr gut aus, Miss Sophie.
Miss Sophie: Well, I am feeling very much better, thank you, James.
Miss Sophie: Nun ich fühle mich auch sehr viel besser. Danke James.
James: Gut, gut …
Miss Sophie: Also, ich muss sagen, dass alles sehr nett aussieht.
James: Danke sehr, Miss Sophie. Danke.
Miss Sophie: Sind alle da?
James: In der Tat. Jawohl, ja … Alle sind zu Ihrem Geburtstag hier, Miss Sophie.
– From “Dinner for One” (NOTE: The original is all in English!)
MORE > “Dinner for One” – Full Script (in English)
The British actor Freddie Frinton played the tipsy butler James in the 1963 German TV production. (Frinton died only five years after the Hamburg filming.) May Warden played the role of Miss Sophie, who is celebrating her 90th birthday. The only problem is… all of her party “guests” are imaginary friends who have died off. A German New Year’s Eve just doesn’t seem right without hearing the lines known to just about any living German: “The same procedure as last year, Madam? – The same procedure as every year, James.”
In these more politically-correct times, the sketch—in which Miss Sophie and her butler proceed to get thoroughly sloshed—has come under some criticism. But so popular is the perennial “Dinner for One” that some German airlines show the 17-minute sketch on flights between Dec. 28 and Jan. 2, just so passengers won’t miss out on the annual tradition. If you have German TV’s streaming service, you can watch the broadcasts of “Dinner for One” in North America.
In 2011/2012 a new satiric version of “Dinner for One” was popular: “Euros for No One” from ARD. You can view this video below.
Below you’ll find two videos of the classic “Dinner for One” and some related links. (Note: Some of these links are seasonal.) Also see the “Dinner for One” books below.
Video 1 – The full 17-minute classic sketch as broadcast by the WDR
Video 2 – Satire: “Euros for No One” (ARD) – A 3-minute “revised” version with Angela Merkel and M. Sarkozy
WDR – ‘Dinner for One’
Alles, was man wissen will: “Dinner for One” – der Kult an Silvester. (WDR/ARD – in season)
BOOKS – DVDs
Dinner for One von A-Z: Das Lexikon zum Kult-Vergnügen
Kindle or paperback book from Amazon.de
Everything you wanted to know about DfO: “WELL JAMES, IT’S BEEN REALLY A WONDERFUL PARTY.” Alle kennen “Dinner for One”. Aber wer kennt die entscheidenden Details: Woher die Namen der stummen Gäste stammen. Wer “Dinner for One” nach Deutschland brachte – und wie schwierig das war. Wie viele Pannen bei der Aufzeichnung passierten.
‘Dinner for One’ – DVD
This DVD is in the PAL Region 2 format. (Will not play on regular US or Canadian VCRs or DVD players.) From Amazon.de. Note: ‘Dinner for One’ is not available on NTSC DVD for the US and Canada. However, the German DVD will play on a North American computer with a DVD drive.
Dinner for One: Freddie Frinton, Miss Sophie und der 90. Geburtstag (Buch/book, 2012)
Unabhängig von der Sendezeit im Fernsehen erlaubt dieses Buch den Zugang zu dem berühmten kleinen Kosmos des Humors. Charmante Beitexte über Entdeckung und Interpretationsmöglichkeiten des Sketches runden das unerläßliche Kompendium dieses Evergreens des skurrilen Humors ab. – Amazon.de
Tigerfell Teppich (faux tiger-fur rug)
You can order this replica of the tiger rug featured in “Dinner for One.” (See photo above.) It can be used as a wall decoration or a rug. (Größe des Tigerfells incl. Füße: ca. 90 x 74 cm; Höhe des Kopfes: ca. 14 cm, Länge mit Schwanz: ca. 140 cm)
‘Dinner for One’ – Buch und CD
A book and CD – with the script for ‘Dinner for One’ in several languages – from Amazon.de. Note: This older item may not be available, or may sell for a premium collector’s price.