Wednesday, July 24, 2024

RIP Actor and Comedian Richard Belzer, Munch of “SVU” and “Homicide,” Famous for Dry Sense of Humor


Det John Munch, RIP.

Actor Richard Belzer, who started out as a comedian but became a highly praised dramatic actor on TV, has died at age 78. He’d been living in the South of France for quite some time.

Belzer was beloved as Detective John Munch, first on “Homicide Life on the Streets” and then “Law & Order SVU.” He played the role for 22 years in total. Munch appeared on the original “Law & Order” and “Trial by Jury,” as well. Belzer played him on a total of 11 different TV series and six prime time shows, setting records for popularity and appearances.

Laraine Newman, original player on “SNL,” broke the news of his death on Twitter. She wrote: “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.”

I knew Richard, he was from Bridgeport, Connecticut. Acerbic and charming, he was famous for going everywhere with his little dog. If he came to Michael’s restaurant or Elaine’s, the the little pup would get a spread out blanket and a bowl of water beneath the table.

Belzer had a pretty awful family life as a kid. Somewhere along the way he became great friends with Jerry Lewis. This was often a topic of discussion for us. Many years ago, Lewis was toasted at the original Friars Club (not the current deteriorated version) in an emotional evening. Belzer was heard calling Lewis “Dad” throughout the evening. It was very touching, and Lewis was grateful for his devotion.

According to my sources, “SVU” often asked Belzer to fly in from France to do cameos, but he was frail and could never make it. His last appearance on “SVU” was in 2016, as seen below. This past Thursday, Munch was mentioned on “SVU” by actor Ice T as Fin, his old partner. I wrote about it on Friday. Fin said Munch had gone back to living in Baltimore, the home of “Homicide,” had opened a bar and was happily married. The producers must have known Belzer was ill, and gave him a fitting goodbye tribute.

Richard Belzer will be much missed.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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