Richard Belzer, the comedian and one of television’s most memorable detectives as John Munch in Homicide, has died.
Richard Belzer, the comedian who appeared on television as John Munch in Life on the Street and Law & Order: SVU, has died. he was 78 years old.
Belzer died Sunday at his home in Bozoul, in the south of France, his longtime friend Bill Sheft told The Hollywood Reporter. Comedian Laraine Newman was the first to announce his death on Twitter. Belzer’s cousin, actor Henry Winkler, wrote, “Rest in peace.”
Over 20 years and over 10 series – including appearances on 30 Rock and Arrested Development – Belzer played the conspiracy-theoretic smarts, acid murder detective. Belzer first played Munch in an episode of Homicide in 1993, and last in Law & Order: SVU in 2016.
Belzer never auditioned for the role. After hearing his voice on The Howard Stern Show, executive producer Barry Levinson brought the comedian in to read for his part.
“I can’t be a detective, but if I were, I would,” Belzer once said. “She writes all my paranoia, dissent, conspiracy theories, etc. So it’s a lot of fun for me. It’s a dream, really.”
Thus, Belzer’s Munch went from unlikely beginnings to become one of television’s longest-running and beloved characters, appearing as a bespectacled presence on the small screen for more than two decades.
In 2008, Belzer collaborated with Michael Ian Black on the novel I’m Not a Cop! ] Published. He also helped write books on conspiracy theories, including the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
“He made me laugh a billion times,” his longtime friend and fellow monolist Richard Lewis said on Twitter.
Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Belzer became drawn to comedy during his childhood when his mother beat him and his older brother Len. “My kitchen was the toughest room I’d ever worked in,” he told People magazine in 1993.
After being expelled from Dean College in Massachusetts, in 1972 he began his life as a stand-up in New York. On Catch the Rising Star, Belzer became a regular.
In 1974, he made his film debut in The Groove Tube, directed by Ken Shapiro. A TV satirical film co-starring Chevy Chase, born out of Belzer’s comedy troupe, Channel One.
Before Saturday Night Live changed New York’s comedy scene, Belzer appeared on the National Lampoon Radio Hour with John Belushi, Gilda Radner and Bill Murray. In 1975, he became the warmup com for the newly launched SNL.
Many of the cast quickly rose to fame, but Belzer’s roles were mostly minor cameos. He later claimed that SNL creator Lorne Michaels broke a promise to cast him.
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