RIP Fyvush Finkel, star of Yiddish theater, TV’s ‘Picket Fences’ & ‘Boston Public’

Fyvush Finkel, whose homespun moniker and putty face were comic statements all their own that helped him become a mainstay of what remained of Yiddish entertainment, and who later crossed over into the television mainstream as the cantankerous lawyer on the 1990s series “Picket Fences,” died on Sunday at his home in Manhattan. He was 93.

Despite the decline of Yiddish theater, Finkel, who started performing at nine years old, never gave it up.

In his autumnal years, he often starred in pastiches recalling the Yiddish theater’s heyday, adorned with old theater posters of Molly Picon and Jacob Adler and musical chestnuts like “Yidl Mitn Fidl.”

In 1991 he patched together a merry valentine to Yiddish vaudeville, with himself as the star, called “Finkel’s Follies.” Presented Off Broadway at the John Houseman Theater on West 42nd Street, it featured such shopworn shticks as the waiter who rebukes a customer for griping about a filthy napkin.

“Eleven people used that napkin,” the waiter says. “You’re the only one who complained.”

I was a fan of his on “Boston Public.” It wasn’t a great role, but he shone in it.

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