The Commercial Appeal
Richard Belzer, stand-up comic and TV detective, dies at 78
Richard Belzer, the longtime standup comedian who became 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.
Belzer died Sunday at his home in Beaulieusur-mer, in southern France, his longtime friend Bill Scheft said. Scheft, a writer who had been working on a documentary about Belzer, said there was no known cause of death, but that Belzer had been dealing with circulatory and respiratory issues. The actor Henry Winkler, Belzer’s cousin, tweeted, “Rest in peace Richard.”
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.”
Belzer never auditioned for the role. After hearing him on “The Howard Stern Show,” executive producer Barry
Levinson brought the comedian in to read for the part.
From that unlikely beginning, Belzer’s Munch would become one of television’s longest-running characters and a sunglasses-wearing presence on the small screen for more than two decades. In 2008, Belzer published the novel “I Am Not a Cop!” with Michael Ian Black. He also helped write several books on conspiracy theories, about things like President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
Before “Saturday Night Live” changed the comedy scene in New York, Belzer performed with John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Bill Murray and others on the National Lampoon Radio Hour. In 1975, he became the warm-up comic for the newly launched “SNL.”