Ricard Belzer Dies, Aged 78

Richard Belzer

by James White |
Updated on

Richard Belzer, a comedian whose stone-faced demeanor later made him a star on TV's Law & Order, has died. He was 78.

"I'm so sad to hear of Richard Belzer's passing," wrote original Saturday Night Live cast member Laraine Newman, who first reported news of his death, wrote on twitter. "I loved this guy so much. He was one of my first friends when I got to New York to do SNL. 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."

Belzer was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1944. After high school, Belzer worked as a reporter for the Bridgeport Post. He moved to New York to find work as a stand-up comedian. Belzer was the audience warm-up comedian for SNL in its first season and made three guest appearances on the show. He also opened for musician Warren Zevon during his tour supporting the release of his album Excitable Boy.

While he was best known for his small screen work, Belzer also racked up a solid cinematic CV. He had small but noticeable roles in movies such as Fame, Night Shift, Scarface, Fletch Lives, The Bonfire Of The Vanities and Man On The Moon.

But on TV, Belzer became an icon. After a run of guest appearances on other shows, he landed the role of Detective John Munch in Homicide: Life On The Street, a character who became more known via Law & Order and one he'd end up playing across 10 series on five different networks, including The X-Files, The Wire, 30 Rock and American Dad.

"Richard Belzer’s Detective John Munch is one of television’s iconic characters," said a statement from Law & Order creator and producer Dick Wolf. "I first worked with Richard on the Law & Order/Homicide crossover and loved the character so much, I told Tom (Fontana) that I wanted to make him one of the original characters on SVU The rest is history. Richard brought humour and joy into all our lives, was the consummate professional and we will all miss him very much."

Belzer was a passionate conspiracy theorist — and wrote books about JFK's assassination, UFOs and Elvis. He's survived by his third wife, actress Harlee McBride, and stepdaughters Jessica and Bree.

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