From 1999 until 2016, Richard Belzer portrayed Detective John Munch in the crime drama.
Richard Belzer, the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit actor, comedian, and author, has died. He was 78.
Bill Scheft, a former writer for The Late Show with David Letterman, confirmed the death. Scheft said Belzer died “peacefully with family by his side” at his house in Bozouls, southwest France.
Belzer has had numerous health concerns, including surviving testicular cancer in 1983, which inspired his HBO comedy show Another Lone Nut in 1997.
In the same program, he joked about another incident on The Richard Belzer Show in which famous guest Hulk Hogan choked the host, causing him to pass out and smack his head on the stage. Belzer filed a lawsuit, and they later settled out of court.
Once news of Belzer’s death became public, he was mourned by several notable friends.
“Richard Belzer’s investigator John Munch is one of television’s greatest characters,” stated Dick Wolf, creator and executive producer of Law & Order: SVU.
“I initially worked with Richard on the Law & Order/Homicide crossover and loved the character so much I told Tom (Fontana) that I wanted to make him one of the original characters on SVU.
The rest, as they say, is history. Richard brought laughter and delight into our lives; he was the ultimate professional, and we will miss him greatly.”
Laraine Newman, a Saturday Night Live cast member from 1975 to 1980, was among several who paid respect to Belzer on Twitter after he worked as the NBC sketch comedy show’s warm-up comedian during her tenure.
“I’m deeply saddened to learn about Richard Belzer’s death,” she wrote. “I was crazy about this guy. When I moved to New York to start SNL, he was one of my first pals.”
“We used to travel down to Sheepshead Bay for lobster every week for supper. One of the most amusing persons ever. A crowd worker’s dream. “RIP, beloved,” Newman added.
“Richard Belzer died,” Marc Maron said in a tribute post.” He was a one-of-a-kind. Babe, you’re one of the greats. I adored him. RIP”
“The Belz… “Even when he was holding his puppy, he was always the coolest cat in the room,” Jeff Ross commented, sharing a throwback photo of Belzer with his poodle-fox terrier mix Bebe.
Belzer was most recognized for his work on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as Detective John Munch. He appeared in roughly 330 episodes of SVU between 1999 and 2013, with two further cameos in 2014 and 2016. He originated the part on NBC’s Homicide: Life on the Street in 1993 and reprised the character in the Law & Order parent series.
“It was a bit of a miracle how I landed the part,” he explained to The Boomer Tube. “I didn’t try out for it. After hearing me on the Howard Stern Show, Barry Levinson asked me to read for the character.”
“I would never be a detective, but if I were, that’s how I’d be,” Belzer said of his SVU part. The character is quite similar to me. It’s a lot of fun for me since they write to all of my paranoia, anti-establishment dissonance, and conspiracy theories. It’s almost like a dream.”
Belzer’s other acting credits include his appearance as a Babylon Club M.C. in the 1983 film Scarface, the president in the 1998 film Species II, and The Flash TV series in 1991.
Off-screen, Belzer had a successful comedy career and was open about supporting numerous conspiracy theories. Belzer has shared his unique perspectives on American culture — and history — on stage and in books.
Belzer published Hit List: An In-Depth Study into the Strange Deaths of Witnesses to the JFK Assassination in 2016.
UFOS, JFK, and Elvis: Conspiracies You Don’t Have to Be Crazy to Believe, and Dead Wrong: Plain Facts on the Country’s Most Controversial Cover-Ups are among his other publications.
Belzer’s wife, Harlee McBride, whom he married in 1985, survives him. McBride has two children from a prior relationship, Jessica and Shannon Benton, although he has no biological children.
Belzer praised his dog Bebe for extending his life in a 2010 interview with Cesar’s Way Magazine.
“I have a bit of a temper, and the dog can tell when I’m irritated,” he explained. “So the dog is supposed to make me live longer. I don’t fly off the handle nearly as much as I used to.”