Comedian and ‘Law & Order: SVU’ actor Richard Belzer dies at age 78

February 20, 2023
Charlotte Tyler

Richard Belzer, the comic and actor best remembered for portraying the sarcastic Detective John Munch throughout the course of several NBC crime series, including Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, has passed away. He was 78.

According to his manager, Eric Gardner, Belzer  “passed away peacefully” early on Sunday morning local time at his residence in France, according to CNN.

"Health issues"

Belzer had “lots of health issues” according to writer Bill Scheft, a devoted friend of the performer, who spoke with The Hollywood Reporter.

Belzer best known for his role as Munch in Law & Order: SVU, was a series regular from 1999 to 2016, appearing in 326 episodes. Despite the fact that his character retired in 2013, he made a comeback in two more episodes.

Detective Munch shared Belzer's tendencies toward conspiracy, Jewish heritage, and dry humor. His lanky, witty, glasses-wearing detective eventually rose to the status of one of the most recognizable police officers in the annals of TV crime drama.

“I would never be a detective, but if I were, that’s how I’d be,” he said in a recent interview with The Boomer Tube. “The character is very close to how I would be. They write to all my paranoia and anti-establishment dissidence and conspiracy theories, so it’s been a lot of fun for me. It’s been a dream actually.”

Besides acting in SVU, Belzer was a comedian and author. He also appeared as Munch in Homicide: Life on the Street.

Belzer's career

His career in the entertainment industry dated all the way back to the 1970s.

Belzer got his start in comedy in the 1970s, performing in clubs in New York City alongside other comedians such as Andy Kaufman and Robert Klein. He made his first television appearance in 1976 on the sketch comedy series "Saturday Night Live."

In the 1980s, Belzer began to transition to acting, appearing in small roles in films such as Fame and Scarface. He also appeared in a number of television series, including Miami Vice and Moonlighting.

His role as Munch in Homicide: Life on the Streets was a breakout role for him and carried over to SVU.

Based on the book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon, Homicide was critically acclaimed and helped to establish Belzer as a leading character actor.

Belzer has also made guest appearances on a number of other television series, including The X-Files and Arrested Development.

He was an author, too

In addition to his work in television and film, Belzer is also an author and has written several books, including a collection of humorous essays titled UFOs, JFK, and Elvis: Conspiracies You Don't Have to Be Crazy to Believe.

He was an outspoken advocate for animal rights and worked with several animal welfare organizations throughout his career.

Overall, Belzer's career was marked by versatility and range, with his comedic talents and acting abilities making him a beloved figure in the entertainment industry.

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