German New Years – Same procedure as every year

“This year, millions of Germans will take part in a New Year's Eve ritual – watching a black-and-white English-language television sketch called “Dinner for One, or the 90th Birthday” that was recorded 50 years ago… The 18-minute slapstick sketch,…has become the highest-rated TV show in German history, and holds the Guinness world record for the most repeated television program ever… Written by author Lauri Wylie in the 1920s,” Dinner for One” was originally performed in British music halls… the sketch about a butler who gets riotously drunk while serving food and drinks to his employer and her imaginary guests on her 90th birthday.

The running joke is that Sophie sits alone at the table because she has outlived all her male guests, who were her former lovers; the last was buried 25 years earlier. Butler James assumes the role of each “guest” to toast Miss Sophie with champagne, wine, port and so on throughout the meal. Before each toast, he asks plaintively: “Same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie” to which she replies, “The same procedure as every year, James.”… the sketch is totally unknown in the English-speaking world, despite its origins in British music halls. It has never been shown in either Britain or the US.

English-speaking visitors to Germany are often confused by continual references to this obscure sketch. In a bid to make casual conversation, a German might ask “Same procedure as every year?”…”

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