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Remembering Freddie Roman, a legendary Jewish comedian

“No matter who you were, he made everybody feel special and he was always encouraging,” fellow comic Modi Rosenfeld said.

From left: Dick Capri, Tzahi Moskovitz, Freddie Roman, Lee Moore and director of the short film “Christ in the City” Yitz Brilliant. Credit: Yitz Brilliant.
From left: Dick Capri, Tzahi Moskovitz, Freddie Roman, Lee Moore and director of the short film “Christ in the City” Yitz Brilliant. Credit: Yitz Brilliant.

Freddie Roman, a Jewish comedian known for his impeccable timing and his performances at Borscht Belt hotels, died on Saturday in Boynton, Florida at 85. He was the creator of the “Catskills on Broadway” musical and one of the show’s four performers.

“I had the pleasure to perform with Freddie Roman many times, including with Sid Caesar, Pat Cooper and Dick Capri,” Jewish comedian Modi Rosenfeld, who performs under the moniker Modi, told JNS. “No matter who you were, he made everybody feel special and he was always encouraging.”

Comedian Mike Fine called Roman “such a great guy and comedian.”

“When I got sworn into the Friars Club many years ago, he gave me a kiss at the swearing-in and he told me he only kissed comedians. He treated all the up-and-comers as if they were his peers,” Fine told JNS.

Fine said Roman (born Fred Kirschenbaum) was the opposite of a diva.

“[There were] no pretensions about him,” Fine said. “You couldn’t find a comedian who had a bad word to say about him, which is very rare in our field of work.”

Fine recalled that at a roast he made a joke about Roman, who could have in turn ripped him, but instead chose not to.

“He was a real class act,” Fine said.

Filmmaker Yitz Brilliant, who lives in Israel, recalled how Roman and Capri agreed to be in his short film “Christ in the City” in 2005.

“Freddie was extremely gracious and generous,” Brilliant told JNS. “He palled around with the extras, and he and Dick Capri seemed to really get a kick out of it.”

Roman would joke about the amount of food people eat. In a telethon, he said that his son graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, only to shovel horse manure at the Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey.

This writer attended several of Roman’s performances at the Raleigh Hotel in South Fallsburg, New York, in the Borscht Belt region of the Catskill Mountains, and his delivery was perfect. I even once told him one of my own jokes.

“It could use some work,” he said.

“Should I work on it?” I asked.

“No,” he deadpanned.

In “Catskills on Broadway,” in which Roman starred with Capri, Mal Z. Lawrence and Louise DuArt, I laughed the most at Roman’s set.

“I took a cholesterol test,” Roman said. “My number came back 911.”

Roman, who was also in the television show “Red Oaks” and appeared in the film “The Comedian,” almost never had a hair out of place and rarely showed any stress.

Known for his charm, sweetness and punch lines, Roman will be greatly missed.

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