Richard Belzer, Comedian and TV detective, dies at 78


NEW YORK — Richard Belzer, the longtime stand-up comedian and one of TV’s most indelible detectives as John Munch in Homicide: Life on the Street and Law & Order: SVU, has died. He was 78 year old.

Actor Richard Belzer, best known for his role as the witty and acerbic Detective John Munch in “Homicide: Life on the Street” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Mr. Scheft said the actor had been in poor health with circulatory and respiratory issues. 

“He was surrounded by his family and he was without pain,” said Mr. Scheft, a comedy writer who first met Mr. Belzer in 1982 at the New York club Catch a Rising Star. 

For more than two decades and across 10 series — even including appearances on 30 Rock and Arrested Development — Belzer played the wise-cracking, acerbic homicide detective prone to conspiracy theories. Belzer first played Munch on a 1993 episode of Homicide and last played him in 2016 on Law & Order: SVU.

Richard Belzer Career

His career as Detective Munch began in 1993 on “Homicide: Life on the Street,” a gritty cop show set in Baltimore. After seven years, that show ended, but the fictional Detective Munch relocated to New York to work as a sex-crimes investigator on “Law & Order: SVU.” 

“He made me laugh a billion times,” his longtime friend and fellow stand-up Richard Lewis said on Twitter.

Richard Belzer Early Life

Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Belzer was drawn to comedy, he said, during an abusive childhood in which his mother would beat him and his older brother, Len. “My kitchen was the toughest room I ever worked,” Belzer told People magazine in 1993.

Mr. Scheft, who said he has been working on a documentary about his friend’s career for the past four years, said that before Mr. Belzer became Detective Munch, he was one of the most influential stand-up comics of the 1970s. 

After being expelled from Dean Junior College in Massachusetts, Belzer embarked on a life of stand-up in New York in 1972. At Catch a Rising Star, Belzer became a regular. He made his big-screen debut in Ken Shapiro’s 1974 film The Groove Tube, a TV satire co-starring Chevy Chase, a film that grew out of the comedy group Channel One that Belzer was a part of.

“We used to go out to dinner every week at Sheepshead Bay for lobster. One of the funniest people ever. A master at crowd work. RIP dearest,” Ms. Newman wrote on Twitter.

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