Richard Belzer, the veteran comedian, and actor who played the iconic role of Detective John Munch in several TV shows passed away on Sunday at his home in France. He was 78 years old.
Belzer was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1944 and began his career as a stand-up comic in the 1970s. He appeared on “Saturday Night Live” as a guest host and a writer and also starred in his own HBO comedy special.
He made his mark on television as John Munch, a cynical and sarcastic homicide detective who often spouted conspiracy theories. He first played the character in “Homicide: Life on the Street” from 1993 to 1999 and then reprised it in “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” from 1999 to 2016. He also appeared as Munch in other shows such as “The X-Files”, “The Wire”, “Arrested Development” and “30 Rock”.
Belzer was known for his sharp wit and humor on and off the screen. He wrote several books, including a memoir titled “I Am Not A Cop!” and a series of mystery novels featuring himself as the protagonist.
He is survived by his wife Harlee McBride, whom he married in 1985, and his two stepdaughters Bree Benton and Jessica Benton.
His longtime friend Bill Scheft confirmed his death to USA Today and said Belzer had been dealing with circulatory and respiratory issues. He noted that Belzer died peacefully with his family by his side.
“He was one of a kind,” Scheft said. “He was funny, smart, generous, loyal, and fearless. He loved comedy more than anything else.”
Many of his co-stars and colleagues paid tribute to him on social media. Mariska Hargitay, who played Olivia Benson on “Law & Order: SVU”, tweeted: “Rest In Peace Richard Belzer. You were a legend. A brilliant actor, comedian, writer & friend. You will be missed by so many.”
Andre Braugher, who played Frank Pembleton on “Homicide: Life on the Street”, wrote: “Richard Belzer was a masterful actor and a wonderful person. I learned so much from him during our time together on Homicide. He was always supportive, generous, and hilarious. My deepest condolences to his family.”
Belzer’s fans also expressed their sadness and appreciation for his work online. One user wrote: “Richard Belzer was one of my favorite actors ever. His portrayal of John Munch was brilliant and unforgettable. He made me laugh so many times with his dry humor and sarcasm.”