Richard Belzer, comic-actor best regarded as Law & Purchase detective John Munch, lifeless at 78

Richard Belzer, the longtime standup comedian who grew to become one of TV’s most indelible detectives as John Munch in Murder: Daily life on the Street and Law & Order: SVU, has died. He was 78.

Belzer died Sunday at his household in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, in southern France, his longtime close friend Invoice Scheft said. Scheft, a author who had been doing the job on a documentary about Belzer, claimed there was no known result in of death but that Belzer experienced been dealing with circulatory and respiratory difficulties. The actor Henry Winkler, Belzer’s cousin, tweeted, “Relaxation in peace Richard.”

For extra than two a long time and across 10 series — even together with appearances on 30 Rock and Arrested Enhancement — Belzer performed the intelligent-cracking, acerbic murder detective vulnerable to conspiracy theories. Belzer very first performed Munch on a 1993 episode of Homicide and past played him in 2016 on Law & Purchase: SVU.

Belzer never ever auditioned for the part. Soon after listening to him on The Howard Stern Display, executive producer Barry Levinson introduced the comic in to browse for the part.

“I would by no means be a detective. But if I were being, that is how I’d be,” Belzer once stated. “They create to all my paranoia and anti-establishment dissidence and conspiracy theories. So it is been a good deal of exciting for me. A dream, really.”

From that not likely beginning, Belzer’s Munch would turn into just one of television’s longest-managing characters and a sun shades-putting on existence on the small display for a lot more than two a long time. In 2008, Belzer printed the novel I Am Not a Cop! with Michael Ian Black. He also served compose various textbooks on conspiracy theories, about matters like president John F. Kennedy’s assassination and Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

“He built me snicker a billion situations,” buddy and fellow standup comic Richard Lewis said Sunday on Twitter.

Started in standup, SNL

Born in Bridgeport, Conn., Belzer was drawn to comedy, he reported, for the duration of an abusive childhood in which his mother would beat him and his more mature brother, Leonard. He would do impressions of his childhood idol, Jerry Lewis. “My kitchen area was the toughest area I ever labored,” Belzer advised People today journal in 1993.

Soon after getting expelled from Dean Junior College in Massachusetts, Belzer embarked on a lifestyle of standup in New York in 1972. At Capture a Soaring Star, Belzer turned a regular performer and an emcee. He produced his big-display screen debut in Ken Shapiro’s 1974 movie The Groove Tube, a Tv satire co-starring Chevy Chase, a film that grew out of the comedy team Channel A single that Belzer was a part of.

Belzer performs standup in New York City in March 2003. Just one of the most influential comedians of the 1970s, he was identified specifically for his biting, cynical mindset and his witty, occasionally combative banter with the audience. (Evan Agostini/Getty Images)

Just before Saturday Night time Dwell changed the comedy scene in New York, Belzer done with John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Monthly bill Murray and some others on the National Lampoon Radio Hour. In 1975, he became the warmup comic for the freshly launched SNL. While many solid users promptly turned well-known, Belzer’s roles ended up typically scaled-down cameos. He later stated SNL creator Lorne Michaels reneged on a promise to work him into the demonstrate.

But Belzer became just one of the era’s prime standup comics. He was recognized primarily for his biting, cynical mindset and his witty, in some cases combative banter with the viewers. As just one of the most influential comedians of the 1970s, Belzer was a learn of crowd operate.

“My type progressed from working with drunken people at 12, one particular, two in the early morning and hoping to be like an alchemist and get the direct of their life and turn it into golden jokes,” Belzer explained to Terry Gross on Clean Air.

Belzer would later on produce an irreverent self-enable guide titled How to Be a Stand-Up Comedian with advice on factors like how to apologize to Frank Sinatra when you made pleasurable of him onstage or how to offer with hecklers. A single of his favourite strains was: “I have a microphone. You have a beer. God has a prepare and you are not in on it.”

Belzer frequently played a standup comedian in film, which include in 1980’s Fame and 1983’s Scarface. He experienced smaller roles right here and there, which includes in Evening Change in 1982, and Fletch Life in 1989. But Munch would adjust Belzer’s vocation.

‘One of television’s legendary characters’

As Homicide co-creator Tom Fontana explained, “Munch was the spice in these dishes,” Belzer instructed the AV Club. “Munch was based on a actual guy in Baltimore who was a star detective, in a way. He would arrive on to grisly murder scenes, get started doing one particular-liners, due to the fact another person had to break the rigidity. So Munch served a pretty critical purpose. Not only was he a dissident who claimed what was on his mind, he form of had the gallows humour which is wanted in a murder squad.”

When Homicide wrapped in early 1999, Munch named Dick Wolf to see if the character could be part of an additional NBC collection, Law & Get, where Munch had popped up in a couple of former episodes. Wolf presently experienced his sales opportunities for Legislation & Order, but he preferred Belzer to star in a spinoff. That slide, Law & Purchase: SVU premiered, with Belzer starring along with Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni in a storyline penned as though Munch had transferred from Baltimore to New York.

Actors pose for a photograph.
Murder: Lifestyle on the Street actors Kyle Secor, left, and Belzer are shown in this promotional photo. The sequence ran from 1993-99. (NBC/Getty Photographs)

“Richard Belzer’s Detective John Munch is a person of television’s iconic people,” Wolf claimed in a statement.

“I to start with labored with Richard on the Law & Buy/Homicide crossover and beloved the character so substantially,” Wolf reported. “I needed to make him a person of the authentic people on SVU. The rest is historical past. Richard introduced humour and joy into all our lives, was the consummate specialist and we will all miss out on him really significantly.”

Belzer is survived by his 3rd wife, the actress Harlee McBride, whom he married in 1985. For the past 20 many years, they lived generally in France, in residences he ordered partly from the proceeds of a lawsuit with Hulk Hogan. In 1985, Belzer experienced Hogan as a guest on his cable Tv communicate exhibit Warm Qualities to perform a chin-lock on him. Belzer handed out, strike his head and sued Hogan for $5 million US. They settled out of courtroom.