Sunday, January 14, 2007

On the not-so-mythical outcomes of drinking and toasting

If you read my earlier post On the mythical origins of drinking and toasting, you might appreciate this lighter treatment in the form of a video piece entitled Dinner for One. It's also known as The 90th Birthday Party or, in German, Der 90. Geburtstag. Originally written in England in the 1920s as a theater piece, it was recorded (in English) in 1963 by German television.

This short comic skit has become a cult classic in Germany, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Denmark, Finland, German-speaking Switzerland, and South Africa. In some places it has, interestingly, become a New Year's Eve television tradition. (I've been told that Swedish TV started running it on New Year's Eve in 1972.) Combining slapstick with a sort of dignified pathos, it eventually arrives at a life-affirming conclusion.

I love this piece because it's fun to watch. I also love its tragi-comic read on the human condition, which at once recognizes the absurdity of, and the heroism involved in, persevering in the face of inevitable decline and death.

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