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Dinner for One, also known as The 90th Birthday, was a popular British Vaudeville sketch that gained world fame after being recorded for German television in 1963. While they were at it, the same actors also made a version for Swiss television, with only a few modifications.
This short comical play subsequently became the most frequently repeated TV program ever, according to the Guinness Book of Records. The 18-minute black-and-white 1963 TV recording, featuring British comedians Freddie Frinton and May Warden, has become an integral component of the New Year's Eve television schedule of several countries.
The sketch presents the 90th birthday of elderly upper-class Englishwoman Miss Sophie, who hosts a dinner every year for her close friends Mr Pommeroy, Mr Winterbottom, Sir Toby and Admiral von Schneider to celebrate the occasion. The problem is that given Miss Sophie's considerable age, she has outlived all of her friends, and so butler James makes his way around the table, impersonating each of the guests in turn. During the four-course dinner, he repeatedly drinks a toast on behalf of all four absent guests, consuming a total of 16 drinks... and acts accordingly.
Dinner for One provides examples of:
- The Alcoholic: Sir Toby.
- Alcohol Hic: Inevitable.
- Ascended Fangirl: An odd Real Life subversion is Sonja Göth, who was part of the live studio audience when the sketch was recorded for German television. She was laughing so loudly and so hysterically that she became a celebrity in her own right.
- Catch Phrase:
James: By the way, the same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?
Miss Sophie: The same procedure as every year, James.
- Drinking on Duty: Necessarily because it's James' job to simulate the presence of Miss Sophie's four late friends including their drinking habits, especially Sir Toby's.
- Drunken Song
Miss Sophie: Sir Toby...
James: (sings) Sugar in the morning...
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Everyone assumes that the sketch ends with James and Miss Sophie going upstairs to have sex. The families of the actors have firmly denied this.
- Foreign Remake: There are even several dialect remakes of Dinner for One by now.
- New Year Has Come: As noticed it is shown every New Year's Eve in several countries. Viewers get the impression that the sketch takes place on New Year's Eve because "Mr. Pommeroy" says "Happy New Year" every time it's his toast. Actually, this is a reference to the fact that it's Miss Sophie's birthday.
- No Export for You: On several occasions, The BBC have asked German television for copies of Dinner for One, and received it. What they're doing with these copies is anyone's guess, since the sketch has yet to be shown on British television.
- Running Gag: Every time James walks from the table to the kitchen, he trips over the head of a tiger skin lying on the floor. There are only three exceptions to this. The first time (when he has just served the white wine) he narrowly misses the head, much to his own surprise. Instead, he trips over it on his way back to the table. The second time (after serving the champagne) he steps over it in an unusual way. The third time (after serving the port), he jumps over it.
- They Wasted A Perfectly Good Four-Course Menu