Law & Order: SVU’s Richard Belzer passes at age 78

Actor, stand-up comedian, and author, Richard Belzer has passed away at age 78. Belzer is best known for his role as BPD Detective, NYPD Detective/Sergeant, and DA Investigator John Munch, whom he has portrayed as a regular cast member on the NBC police drama series Homicide: Life on the Street and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, as well as in guest appearances on several other series.

Comedian and former SNL cast member Laraine Newman first announced his death on Twitter.

Belzer passed away early Sunday at his home in Bozouls in southwest France, longtime friend of the actor and writer Bill Scheft, confirmed his passing with The Hollywood Reporter. โ€œHe had lots of health issues, and his last words were, โ€˜Fuck you, motherfucker,’โ€ Scheft said.

Richard Jay Belzer was born on August 4, 1944 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. After graduating from Fairfield Warde High School, Belzer attended Dean College, which was then known as Dean Junior College, in Franklin, Massachusetts, but was expelled for leading demonstrations and protests.

Due to his “uncontrollable wit,” Belzer was actually thrown out of every school he ever attended. Prior to his career in showbiz, Belzer worked as a teacher, census-taker, jewelry salesman, dockworker and a reporter for the Bridgeport Post, among a slew of other Connecticut newspapers.

Belzer began his on-screen career with a starring role in Groove Tube, the counterculture film that went on to become a cult classic. Belzer’s comedic talents have since been featured in every entertainment medium from off-Broadway (The National Lampoon Show with Bill Murray, Gilda Radner and John Belushi) to radio (Brink and Belzer on WNBC) to film (Fame, Author, Author, Night Shift and Scarface). He also appeared as himself – and the MC at the Catch – in the Andy Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon. His other film credits include Species II, Get on the Bus, Girl 6, A Very Brady Sequel, North, The Bonfire of the Vanities and The Big Picture. Belzer survived testicular cancer in 1983 and in 1997, Belzer starred in his own HBO comedy special, Another Lone Nut, and released a comedy CD of the same title. The special poked fun at his medical incident as well as his status as a well-known conspiracy theorist. He hosted ABC’s primetime special called When Cars Attack, starred in the six-part comedy Showtime series The Richard Belzer Show, hosted the live Lifetime talk show Hot Properties, and Court TV’s Crime Stories.

Belzer is the author of four books, the last two of which were a crime fiction series co-written with Michael Black that featured Belzer as the mystery-solving protagonist. I’m Not a Cop, the first of the two, was published in 2008, followed by the sequel, I’m Not a Psychic, in 2009. Belzer penned UFOs, JFK and Elvis: Conspiracies You Don’t Have to Be Crazy to Believe in 2000, and co-authored How to Be a Standup Comic in 1988 with Borat director and writer, Larry Charles, and Catch a Rising Star owner Rick Newman.

From 1993โ€“2013 Belzer portrayed police detective John Munch in both the Baltimore-based Homicide: Life on the Street  and the New York City-based Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Detective Munch was based on a real-life Baltimore detective who was a highly intelligent, doggedly diligent investigator who believed in conspiracy theories, distrusted the system and pursued justice through a jaded eye. In March 2016, executive producer Warren Leight announced Belzer would return to reprise the role in a May 2016 episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, titled Fashionable Crimes. 

“This is one conspiracy in which I have been a willing participant,” says Belzer, a renowned conspiracy theorist, of his 18-year, multi-show portrayal of Munch. In fact, Belzer has played Detective Munch on a record-setting 11 different television series: Law & Order, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law & Order: Trial By Jury, Homicide, The X-Files, The Beat, M.O.N.Y., Sesame Street, The Wire, Arrested Development and 30 Rock.


As news if his passing spread, many took to social media to pay their respects: 

Belzer is survived by his third wife, model and actress Harlee McBride, whom he married in 1985.

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