I haven’t seen this sketch before, but was sent a link to it by a friend. It’s one of those mysteries: a British sketch that is venerated (as it has been for nearly forty years) in Europe, from Sweden to Slovenia, and as much part of the Christmas/ New Year season as Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman is here, but one which has never been shown on British TV. The star, Freddie Frinton, who performed the sketch so often that he bought the sketch from the writer, only really made an impression on television audiences at the end of his life (he died at the age of 59) in a sit-com called Meet The Wife (the first show to magnify Thora Hird’s reputation on the small screen, and popular enough in 1966-67 or so for John Lennon to name-check it on a song – ‘Good Morning’ – on the Sgt Pepper album).
As far as I can make out, he recorded it twice – and this version, which I can’t find for looking on YouTube, and can’t work out the instructions to show you the Daily Motion version without your clicking on the link below, is the better of the two (better camera angle, better audience, and a bit more comic business. I think it’s a Swiss recording). Frinton was usually cast as as sort of Andy Capp figure, but (as is often remarked) he was a teetotaller. You probably have to be, to do such a great stage drunk act. This one is funnier than Chaplin’s classic One A.M. from that point of view, if necessarily less athletic.
You can see from the web-link title that this is considered ‘English humour’. All the evidence is that it’s international. Does he circumnavigate the table thirteen or fourteen times? I laugh so much I can’t keep track.
P.S. If you are interested in coincidences, this blog entry was composed on a Saturday afternoon, and timed to appear on Sunday. Exactly ten hours later, an extract from ‘Dinner For One’ was shown on the trivia quiz-show QI. Two of the contestants had never heard of it. Jo Brand knew it was Freddie Frinton. I watched no television during the day except between 1645 and 1700 (Chelsea 7, Sunderland 2, all right, all right), and between 2325 and 2335, which was when the extract was shown.