Law and Order: Special Victims Unit star Richard Belzer has died aged 78.
The actor started out as a comedian but rose to fame for his role as Detective John Munch, first on Homicide Life on the Streets and then on SVU. He also appeared in the original Law and Order and Trial by Jury.
In total, Belzer Munch played on 11 different shows over the course of 22 years.
He died early Sunday at his home in Bozouls, south-west France, after struggling with a series of health problems.
“His last words were, ‘Fuck you, motherfucker,'” writer Bill Schef told The Hollywood Reporter.
Richard Belzer, known as Det. John Munch, who appeared on 11 different shows, has died at the age of 78
He played the role of Det. John Munch on 11 different shows over 22 years including Law and Order: SVU. He is pictured here on set with Mariska Hargitay
His death was first announced by Saturday Night Live alumna Laraine Newman, who tweeted, “So saddened to hear of Richard Belzer’s passing. I loved this guy so much.
“He was one of my first friends when I came to New York to do SNL,” she revealed. “We used to go to Sheepshead Bay for dinner every week to eat lobster.”
Newman said Belzer was “one of the funniest people ever” and a “master of crowd work”.
Comedian Billy Crystal tweeted, “Richard Belzer was just hilarious. A genius at dealing with a crowd. So sad he passed away.’
Adding to the spate of tributes, Marc Maron wrote: “Richard Belzer has passed away. He was an original. One of the greats, baby. i loved the guy. REST IN PEACE.’
Belzer was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he began his foray into comedy by trying to make his physically abusive mother laugh.
“I had to make my mother laugh or I got my ass kicked,” he told People magazine in 1993.
But before beginning his Hollywood career, Belzer held a variety of odd jobs, including as a reporter for the Bridgeport Post and as a census teller.
After his first divorce, he eventually moved to New York City — where he was known for taking his dog everywhere — and began his stand-up career in Manhattan’s comedy clubs.
By 1972, Belzer was a featured player on National Lampoon Radio Hour with co-stars John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray and Gilda Radner.
Some of the skits were later released on albums, including several tracks in which Belzer played a pithy call-in talk show host named Dick Ballentine.
He also had small film roles and made three guest appearances on Saturday Night Love from 1975 to 1980.
He eventually became good friends with actor Jerry Lewis, from whom he apparently sought career advice.
Belzer has credited his comedy career with trying to make his abusive mother laugh
After a divorce, Belzer moved to New York City and began his stand-up career
The many performances by Det. Johannes Münch
- Murder: Street Life
- law & order
- the beat
- Law & Order: Jury Trial
- arrested development
- The cable
- 30 rocks
- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
- Jimmy Kimmel Live!
- Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
But Belzer’s real success came on television.
He started in smaller roles in the 1990s, appearing as a news anchor on The Flash and Inspector William Henderson in several episodes of Lois & Clark and The New Adventures of Superman.
His big break came in 1993 when he starred as Det in Homicide: Life on the Street. John Munch, who later reprized the role in Law and Order and Law and Order: SVU.
In all, Belzer played the scathing detective for 22 consecutive seasons, surpassing the previous prime-time record of 20 consecutive seasons set by James Arness – who played Marshal Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke from 1955-1975 – and Kelsey Grammer – who played Dr. Frasier Crane played – held on Cheers then Frasier
That record has since been beaten by his Law and Order: SVU co-star Mariska Hargitay.
Most recently, Belzer’s character was mentioned in an episode of Law and Order: SVU when the ICE T character spoke about his old partner Munch.
ICE T, who plays Fin on the show, said Munch has moved back to Baltimore — where Homicide Life on the Streets took place — opened a bar and is happily married.
Belzer last appeared on the show in 2016.
Belzer, left, played Detective John Munch for 22 straight seasons
In his private life, Belzer was a well-known conspiracy theorist who wrote four different books about his beliefs. He was also a regular on the Alex Jones show and once referred to the Boston Marathon bombing as a false flag event.
He has been married three times throughout his life and famously sued professional wrestler Hulk Hogan.
The actor had requested that the professional wrestler appear on his show in 1985, just days before the first WrestleMania.
When he asked Hogan to show him one of his signature moves, Hogan placed Belzer in a chin lock, causing him to pass out. Then when Hogan finally released him. Belzer hit his head on the ground and suffered a laceration to the scalp that required a brief hospital stay.
He sued Hogan for $5 million and they settled out of court.
Belzer has also previously survived testicular cancer
He retired from acting in 2016 and has been living in the south of France for a number of years.
The actor was deceased by his mother in 1964, by his father in 1966 and by his brother Leonard, who committed suicide in 2014.