Actor and comedian Richard Belzer, known for his roles in Homicide: Life on the Street and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, has passed away at the age of 78. He died at his home in Bozouls in southwest France on Sunday after battling with several health issues.
Belzer was a standup comedian before venturing into films in 1974 with The Groove Tube. Over his long career, he appeared in several television shows and films. Read on to know more about his life and career.
Actor Richard Belzer Dies at 78
The news of Belzer’s demise was confirmed by his longtime friend and writer Bill Scheft. “He had lots of health issues, and his last words were, ‘F*** you, motherf***er,” Scheft told the media. The actor faced a number of health scares in his life.
In 1983, he battled testicular cancer and came out stronger. Belzer is survived by his wife, Harlee McBride, who he married in 1985. The couple did not have any children; however, McBride is a mother of two daughters from her previous relationship.
Born in Connecticut in 1944, Belzer grew up in a Jewish family. He graduated from Fairfield Warde High School and later attended Dean College but was expelled. He then took up different kinds of jobs before starting his career as a stand-up comedian in New York City.
Belzer Shot to Fame with Homicide: Life on the Street
The actor guest starred in a number of films in the 1970s and ’80s, including Fame, Café Flesh, Scarface, and Night Shift. However, it was his role as Det. John Munch in NBC’s Homicide: Life on the Street, which got him wide recognition. Belzer starred in 122 episodes of the show from 1993 to 1999.
He also appeared in the film based on the show in 2000 and later reprised his role in another show, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Reflecting on the iconic character, he had said in an interview, “I would never be a detective, but if I were, that’s how I’d be.”
“The character is very close to how I would be. They write to all of my paranoia, anti-establishment dissonance and conspiracy theories, so it’s a lot of fun for me. It’s like a dream, actually,” he added. Belzer also made guest appearances on Saturday Night Live from 1975 to 1980.
Industry Friends Pay their Condolences
Belzer’s friends and colleagues from the industry took to social media to express their grief over his passing. “Richard Belzer’s detective John Munch is one of television’s iconic characters,” wrote Dick Wolf, the creator and executive producer of Law & Order: SVU.
“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 humor and joy into all our lives, was the consummate professional, and we will all miss him very much,” he added.
Former Saturday Night Live cast member Laraine Newman tweeted, “I’m so sad to hear of Richard Belzer’s passing. 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.”
Our condolences to Richard Belzer’s family and friends. May his soul rest in peace!