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Home » Richard Belzer, Comedian and TV Actor, Passes Away at 78

Richard Belzer, Comedian and TV Actor, Passes Away at 78

20 February 2023, Monday
Richard Belzer, the much-loved comedian and face of Detective John Munch in Homicide: Life on the Street and Law & Order: SVU, has passed away at age 78. Bill Scheft stated the news from Richard's home in Bozouls, France, confirmed by Laraine Newman's announcement on Twitter. Cousin Henry Winkler tweeted a tribute to the actor with the words "Rest in peace Richard." During his television career, Richard played the acerbic detective in 10 series, including 30 Rock and Arrested Development, for over two decades. His firston-screen adventure as Munch was in 1993, and his last in 2016.

After hearing him on The Howard Stern Show, executive producer Barry Levinson offered comedian Richard Belzer the chance to read for a role on the television series "Homicide: Life on the Street", despite the fact that Belzer had never auditioned for the part. Belzer embraced the opportunity to portray a character he believed mirrored his own anti-establishment notoriety and paranoia.

For the next two decades, Belzer's portrayal of Munch on the show shaped the character into an iconic figure in television history, complete with signature sunglasses. Belzer continued to explore his interests in conspiracy theories with the publication of his novel I Am Not a Cop! and several other books on topics such as President John F. Kennedy's assassination and Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

"He made me laugh a billion times," said Richard Lewis, Belzer's longtime friend and fellow stand-up comedian, on Twitter.

Richard Belzer, born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, developed an interest in comedy while growing up in a household where he and his older brother Len were subjected to abuse from their mother. "My kitchen was the toughest room I ever worked," Belzer told People magazine in 1993.

Belzer was expelled from Dean Junior College in Massachusetts in 1972, after which he pursued a career in stand-up comedy in New York. His debut performance occurred at Catch a Rising Star, and he also featured in Ken Shapiro's 1974 film The Groove Tube alongside Chevy Chase. Prior to the advent of Saturday Night Live, Belzer participated in the National Lampoon Radio Hour with John Belushi, Gilda Radner, and Bill Murray. He became the warm-up comic for SNL when it launched in 1975, but was only granted minor roles in the show despite creator Lorne Michaels' initial promise of greater involvement.
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