Dinner for One on New Year’s Eve – A Little Example of the Difference between German and English Humour

“The same procedure as every year.” When it comes to the broadcast of Dinner for One, this slogan applies to German television on New Year’s Eve. On the last day of the year Dinner for One has been annually screened by German public broadcasters. Many Germans even regard this comedy sketch as the epitome of English humour. Yes, really! I’m not kidding.

Although it is the most repeated British comedy sketch in history, most Britons have never watched it and have been unaware of its popularity in Germany and other countries. A few weeks ago, I remarked on Twitter that I was surprised by this fact since Dinner for One has attained cult status. Later, an Englishman – who I follow on Twitter – responded. According to him, the fact that it is immensely popular in Germany confirms all his prejudices about the German sense of humour – namely that it is unsubtle and contains lots of slapstick.

It hurts me to say it. But he’s partly right, at least as far as German entertainment nowadays is concerned. As the German academic Hans-Dieter Gelfert points out, Britons tend to like bottom-up, disrespectful and dark humour which is also characterized by puns, self-irony and understatement. By contrast, with regard to humour, Germans tend to prefer overstatement, moralization and entertainment without tension. That’s why, we Germans love Dinner for One.