Richard Belzer, the renowned stand-up comedian and actor best known for playing Det. John Munch on Homicide: Life on the Street and Law & Order: SVU, has died. He was 78.
Belzer’s death was confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter by writer/friend Bill Scheft who said, “He had lots of health issues, and his last words were, ‘F-ck you, motherf-cker.” Belzer died at his home in Bozouls, France.
While he had many acting credits to his name, Belzer’s most-prominent role was as Det. John Munch. He first played the role on Homicide: Life on the Street for 122 episodes from 1993-1999. Belzer reprised the role on Law & Order: SVU from 1999-2016 for 326 episodes.
Belzer played Det. Munch primarily on those two series, but he also appeared as a guest star on multiple shows as the sardonic investigator. Those shows included The X-Files, Arrested Development, The Wire and 30 Rock.
In his pre-Det. Mench career, Belzer became known as a member of the New York-based sketch comedy troupe Channel One. The troupe became known for a show called Groove Tube that satirized many tropes popular on television. The show evolved and was released as a movie in 1974 titled The Groove Tube. In addition to Belzer, Chevy Chase also appeared in the film.
Belzer’s work with Channel One led to a career in stand-up that also included work on the National Lampoon Radio Hour. The show also featured future comedy giants Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Harold Ramis and Bill Murray. This gig led to Belzer being tapped to do warm-up crowd work when Saturday Night Live premiered on NBC in 1975.
Other notable work from Belzer included his cable talk show Hot Properties. While the show was short-lived, its most infamous moment came when guests Hulk Hogan and Mr. T appeared to promote the first ever WrestleMania in 1985. Hogan put Belzer in a sleeper hold. Belzer passed out from the hold. Hogan released the host from the hold only for Belzer to fall to the floor and hit his head. This led to Belzer filing a lawsuit against Hogan, Mr. T, the then-World Wrestling Federation and owner Vince McMahon. Belzer sued for $5 million but settled the lawsuit in 1990 out of court.
Belzer is survived by his wife, Harlee McBride, and his stepdaughters, Jessica and Bree.