Richard Jay Belzer
August 4, 1944
Bridgeport, Connecticut, U.S.
|Died||February 19, 2023 (aged 78)|
|Notable works and roles||John Munch on Homicide: Life on the Street and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit|
Richard Jay Belzer (August 4, 1944 – February 19, 2023) was an American actor, comedian and author. He is best known for his role as detective and sergeant John Munch, whom he portrayed for 23 years in the NBC police drama series Homicide: Life on the Street, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and several guest appearances on other series.
Early life and education
Belzer was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut on August 4, 1944, to a Jewish family. He described his mother as frequently physically abusive, and he declared that his comedy career began when trying to make her laugh to distract her from abusing him and his brother. After graduating from Fairfield Warde High School, Belzer worked as a reporter for the Bridgeport Post.
Belzer attended Dean College, which was then known as Dean Junior College, in Franklin, Massachusetts, but was expelled.
After his first divorce, Belzer relocated to New York City, moved in with singer Shelley Ackerman, and began working as a stand-up comic at Pips, The Improv, and Catch a Rising Star. He participated in the Channel One comedy group that satirized television and became the basis for the cult movie The Groove Tube, in which Belzer played the costar of the ersatz TV show The Dealers.
Belzer was the audience warm-up comedian for Saturday Night Live and made three guest appearances on the show between 1975 and 1980. He also opened for musician Warren Zevon during his tour supporting the release of his album Excitable Boy.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Belzer became an occasional film actor. A short skit of a younger Belzer can be found on Sesame Street in a season 9 episode in 1978 when two young men attempt a picnic and boat ride, only to be thwarted by a dog who eats their food. He is noted for minor roles in Fame, Café Flesh, Night Shift, Scarface, and Fletch Lives. He appeared in the music videos for the Mike + The Mechanics song "Taken In", the Pat Benatar song "Le Bel Age", and the Kansas song "Can't Cry Anymore". He appeared in A Very Brady Sequel as an LAPD detective.
In addition to his film career, Belzer was a featured player on the National Lampoon Radio Hour with co-stars John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, and Harold Ramis, a half-hour comedy program aired on 600 plus U.S. stations from 1973 to 1975. Several of his sketches were released on National Lampoon albums, drawn from the Radio Hour, including several bits in which he portrayed a pithy call-in talk show host named "Dick Ballantine".
In the late 1970s, he co-hosted Brink & Belzer on WNBC radio (660 AM) in New York City. He was a frequent guest on The Howard Stern Show. Following the departure of Randi Rhodes from Air America Radio, Belzer guest-hosted the afternoon program on the network.
Belzer was a regular guest on the right-wing radio show of Alex Jones and appeared on the episode covering the Boston Marathon bombing, in which he referred to the bombing as a false flag event.[time needed]
In the 1980s, Belzer was a regular on Alan Thicke's short-lived show Thicke of the Night. He also briefly starred in The Richard Belzer Show on Cinemax, and hosted the Lifetime cable TV talk show, Hot Properties. By the 1990s, he was appearing frequently on television. He was a regular on The Flash as a news anchor and reporter. In several episodes of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, he played Inspector William Henderson.
He followed that with starring roles on the Baltimore-based Homicide: Life on the Street (1993–1999) and the New York City-based Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999–2013), portraying police detective John Munch in both series. Barry Levinson, Executive Producer of Homicide, said Belzer was a "lousy actor" in audition when he read lines from the script for "Gone for Goode", the first episode in the series. Levinson asked Belzer to take time to reread and practice the material, then read it again. At his second reading, Levinson said Belzer was "still terrible", but that the actor eventually found confidence in his performance.
In addition, Belzer played Munch in episodes on seven other series and in a sketch on one talk show, making Munch the only fictional character to appear on eleven different television shows played by a single actor. These shows were on six different networks:
- Homicide: Life on the Street (NBC)
- Law & Order (NBC)
- The X-Files (Fox)
- The Beat (UPN)
- Law & Order: Trial by Jury (NBC)
- Belzer's appearance on Trial by Jury, which aired April 15, 2005, made him the third actor ever to play the same character in six different prime time TV series. The other two actors are John Ratzenberger and George Wendt, who played Cliff Clavin and Norm Peterson, respectively, in Cheers (1982–93); St. Elsewhere (1985); The Tortellis (1987); Wings (1990); The Simpsons (1994); and Frasier (2002).
- Arrested Development (Fox)
- The Wire (HBO)
- 30 Rock (NBC)
- The characters are watching a Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode; a scene shot for 30 Rock
- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (NBC)
- Jimmy Kimmel Live! (ABC)
- Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix), in which he played a John Munch-like character on a fictional Law & Order spinoff.
In March 2016, executive producer Warren Leight announced Belzer would return to reprise the role in a May 2016 episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, titled "Fashionable Crimes".
Belzer portrayed Det. Munch for 22 consecutive seasons on Homicide (7 seasons) and Law & Order: SVU (15 seasons), which exceeded the previous primetime live-action record of twenty consecutive seasons held by James Arness (who portrayed Marshal Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke from 1955 to 1975) and Kelsey Grammer (as Dr. Frasier Crane on Cheers and Frasier from 1984 to 2004). This record has since been passed by Belzer's SVU co-star Mariska Hargitay.
Belzer appeared in several of Comedy Central's televised broadcasts of Friars Club roasts. On June 9, 2001, Belzer himself was honored by the New York Friars Club and the Toyota Comedy Festival as the honoree of the first-ever roast open to the public. Comedians and friends on the dais included Roastmaster Paul Shaffer; Christopher Walken; Danny Aiello; Barry Levinson; Robert Klein; Bill Maher; SVU costars Mariska Hargitay, Christopher Meloni, Ice-T, and Dann Florek; and Law & Order's Jerry Orbach. At the December 1, 2002, roast of Chevy Chase, Belzer said, "The only time Chevy Chase has a funny bone in his body is when I fuck him in the ass."
Belzer voiced the character of Loogie for most of the South Park episode titled "The Tooth Fairy Tats 2000". He and Brian Doyle-Murray were featured in the tenth-season premiere of Sesame Street.
Belzer believed there was a conspiracy to assassinate President John F. Kennedy and wrote five books discussing conspiracy theories:
- UFOs, JFK, and Elvis: Conspiracies You Don't Have to Be Crazy to Believe (2000)
- Dead Wrong: Straight Facts on the Country's Most Controversial Cover-Ups
- Hit List: An In-Depth Investigation into the Mysterious Deaths of Witnesses to the JFK Assassination
- Corporate Conspiracies: How Wall Street Took Over Washington
- Someone Is Hiding Something: What Happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370?
Dead Wrong and Hit List were written with journalist David Wayne and reached The New York Times Best Seller list. Someone Is Hiding Something was also written with David Wayne as well as radio talk show host George Noory. Belzer's long-time character, John Munch, was also a believer in conspiracy theories, including the JFK assassination. In 2008, Belzer published a novel, I Am Not a Cop!, about a fictional version of himself investigating a murder.
Belzer's first two marriages were to Gail Susan Ross (1966–1972) and boutique manager Dalia Danoch (1976 – c. 1978), both of which ended in divorce. In 1981, in Los Angeles, he met 31-year-old Harlee McBride, a divorcee with two daughters, Bree Benton and Jessica. McBride, who had been seen in Playboy magazine four years earlier in that year's sex-in-cinema feature, in conjunction with Young Lady Chatterley, was appearing in TV commercials for Ford and acting in free theater when she met Belzer at the suggestion of a friend. The two married in 1985 and had a home in Bozouls, France.
Belzer survived testicular cancer in 1983. His HBO special and comedy CD Another Lone Nut pokes fun at this medical incident as well as his status as a well-known conspiracy theorist.
On March 27, 1985, four days before the first WrestleMania, Belzer repeatedly requested on his TV talk show Hot Properties that Hulk Hogan demonstrate a wrestling move. Hogan applied a front facelock, causing him to pass out. When released, he hit the back of his head on the floor. He was dazed, lacerated and briefly hospitalized after waking up. He sued for $5 million and settled out of court for $400,000 in 1990. He refers to this in his HBO stand-up special Another Lone Nut. It helped him pay for a home in Beaulieu-sur-Mer called the "Chez Hogan" or "Hulk Hogan Estate".
Belzer's father and brother both died of suicide, in 1968 and 2014 respectively. His cousin was actor Henry Winkler.
Belzer died at his home on February 19, 2023, at age 78, from complications of unspecified circulatory and respiratory conditions. According to his friend Bill Scheft, a novelist, his last words were: "Fuck you, motherfucker!"
This section needs additional citations for verification. (February 2023)
|1974||The Groove Tube||Rodriguez, Leo Batfish, The President, The Hooker||Independent film|
|1982||Café Flesh||Loud-mouthed audience member|
|Author! Author!||Seth Shapiro|
|1983||Scarface||M.C. at Babylon Club|
|Likely Stories, Vol. 3||Richard|
|1986||America||Gypsy Beam||a.k.a. Moonbeam|
|Charlie Barnett's Terms of Enrollment||Man Reading Paper|
|1987||Flicks||Stoner||Segment: "New Adventures of the Great Galaxy"|
|1988||The Wrong Guys||Richard 'Belz' Belzer|
|Freeway||Dr. David Lazarus|
|1989||The Big Picture||Video Show Host|
|1990||The Bonfire of the Vanities||Television Producer|
|1991||The Flash II: Revenge of the Trickster||Joe Kline|
|Off and Running||Milt Zoloth|
|1992||Flash III: Deadly Nightshade||Joe Kline|
|1993||Mad Dog and Glory||M.C./Comic|
|The Puppet Masters||Jarvis|
|1995||Not of This Earth||Jeremy Pallin|
|1996||Girl 6||Caller #4 – Beach|
|A Very Brady Sequel||LAPD Detective|
|Get on the Bus||Rick|
|1998||The Bar Channel||—|
|Species II||U.S. President|
|2007||BelzerVizion||Himself||Also executive producer|
|2010||Santorini Blue||Richard||Also executive producer|
|1975–80||Saturday Night Live||Juror
|Season 1 episode 1, Season 2 episode 27, Season 3 episode 61, and Season 5 episode 106 (uncredited)|
|1978||Sesame Street||Man in Row Boat #1||Episode: "(#1186)"|
|1983-1984||Thicke of the Night||Regular|
|1984||The Richard Belzer Show||Himself||Six episodes|
|1985||Moonlighting||Leonard||Episode: "Twas the Episode Before Christmas"|
|1986||Miami Vice||Captain Hook||Episode: "Trust Fund Pirates"|
a.k.a. Nick & Hillary
|1990–91||The Flash||Joe Kline||10 episodes|
|1991||Monsters||Buzz Hunkle||Episode: "Werewolf of Hollywood"|
|1992||Human Target||Greene||Episode: "Pilot"|
|1993–99||Homicide: Life on the Street||Det. John Munch||122 episodes, regular cast|
|1994||Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman||Inspector William Henderson||Episode: "All Shook Up"|
Episode: "The House of Luthor"
|Nurses||Jesse Wilner||Episode: "Fly the Friendly Skies"|
|Bandit Bandit||Big Bob||TV film|
|Hart to Hart: Crimes of the Hart||Det. Frank Giordano|
|1995||Prince for a Day||Bernie Silver||TV film; a.k.a. The Prince and the Pizza Boy|
|The Invaders||Randy Stein||TV film|
|1996–2000||Law & Order||Det. John Munch||Episode: "Charm City"|
Episode: "Baby, It's You"
|1997||The X-Files||Episode: "Unusual Suspects"|
|Richard Belzer: Another Lone Nut||Himself||HBO comedy special|
|When Cars Attack||TV film|
|1997–98||E! True Hollywood Story||Episode: "Gilda Radner", "John Belushi"|
|1999||Mad About You||Detective Sharp||Episode: "Stealing Burt's Car"|
|1999–2016||Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Det./Sgt. John Munch||325 episodes, regular cast|
|2000||Homicide: The Movie||Det. John Munch||TV film based on the television series|
|The Beat||Episode: "They Say It's Your Birthday"|
|South Park||Loogie (voice)||Episode: "The Tooth Fairy Tats 2000"|
|3rd Rock from the Sun||Himself||Episode: "Dick'll Take Manhattan: Part 1"|
|2005||Law & Order: Trial by Jury||Det. John Munch||Episode: "Skeleton"|
This is a crossover sequel to the episode "Tombstone" from season 15 of the series Law & Order.
|2006||Arrested Development||Episode: "S.O.B.s" (uncredited)|
Episode: "Exit Strategy"
|2008||The Wire||Sgt. John Munch||Episode: "Took"|
|2009||Jimmy Kimmel Live!||Episode dated October 7, 2009|
|Comedy Central Roast of Joan Rivers||Himself||—|
|2013||America Declassified||Season 1 episode 1|
|2015||Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt||A John Munch-like character||One episode: "Kimmy Goes to the Doctor!"|
- UFOs, JFK, and Elvis: Conspiracies You Don't Have to Be Crazy to Believe, ISBN 0-345-42918-4
- How to Be a Stand-Up Comic, ISBN 0-394-56239-9
- I Am Not a Cop!: A Novel, ISBN 1-4165-7066-7
- I Am Not a Psychic!, ISBN 1-4165-7089-6
- Dead Wrong: Straight Facts on the Country's Most Controversial Cover-Ups, ISBN 1-6160-8673-4
- Hit List: An In-Depth Investigation into the Mysterious Deaths of Witnesses to the JFK Assassination, ISBN 978-1620878071
- Someone Is Hiding Something: What Happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370?, ISBN 978-1632207289
- ^ "Richard Belzer's Books". Simon and Schuster. Retrieved July 31, 2022.
- ^ a b Belzer, Richard (October 16, 2013). "Munch Madness". The Huffington Post.
- ^ a b c Locker, Melissa (October 16, 2013). "Farewell, Detective Munch: Richard Belzer's Cop Character Leaves SVU". Time.
- ^ "Horoscope". TV Guide. January 17, 2022. p. 67.
- ^ a b c "Reports: Richard Belzer's brother dead from suicide". Connecticut Post. July 31, 2014. Retrieved February 19, 2023.
- ^ Steinberg, Jacques (January 14, 2009). "Two Funny Guys With the Same Name, but Not the Same Jokes". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 2, 2012. Retrieved March 22, 2011.
- ^ "Richard Belzer". SouthJersey.com. Retrieved March 19, 2018.
- ^ Getlen, Larry (September 24, 2010). "'Uncontrollable Wit': An Interview with Law & Order's Richard Belzer". AARP. Retrieved September 4, 2016.
- ^ Jarvis, Zeke, ed. (2015). "Richard Belzer". Make 'Em Laugh: American Humorists of the 20th and 21st Century. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-Clio. p. 215. ISBN 9781440829956.
- ^ a b c "Richard Belzer, stand-up comic and 'Law & Order: SVU' star, dies at 78". Variety. February 19, 2023. Retrieved February 19, 2023.
- ^ "The National Lampoon Radio Hour". NPR. November 17, 2003.
- ^ Haller, Scott (July 2, 1979). "Waking Up Weird: Can Brink and Belzer Save WNBC?". New York. Retrieved March 19, 2018 – via Google Books.
- ^ Shea, Danny (April 18, 2008). "Richard Belzer to Fill in During Randi Rhodes' Air America Time Slot". The Huffington Post. New York City. Retrieved June 14, 2014.
- ^ "#349: April 15-16, 2013". Knowledge Fight – via PlayerFM.
- ^ O'Connor, John (November 19, 1984). "TV REVIEW; 'RICHARD BELZER SHOW,' COMEDY SERIES ON CABLE". The New York Times. Retrieved March 1, 2023.
- ^ Mendoza, Manuel (June 11, 2003). "Revisit 'Life on the Street'". The Dallas Morning News. Dallas, Texas. p. 1E.
- ^ Levinson, Barry (2003). Homicide Life on the Street – The Seasons 1 & 2 (DVD audio commentary). A&E Home Video.
- ^ Ganley, Doug (October 16, 2013). "Richard Belzer retires Detective Munch". CNN. Atlanta, Georgia.
- ^ a b Cruz, Rachel (March 12, 2015). "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Recap: "Kimmy Goes to the Doctor"". MovieNewsGuide.com. Retrieved March 22, 2016.
... she and Titus (Tituss Burgess) come across an old episode of Law Squiggle Order where Coriolanus Burt (James Monroe Iglehart) is in a scene with actor Richard Belzer.
- ^ a b Smith, Courtney E.; Peterson, Jessie (March 6, 2015). "Everything We Learned From the 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt'". Radio.com. Archived from the original on March 19, 2016. Retrieved March 22, 2016.
There was a Law & Order star, Richard Belzer, in a fake spin-off.
- ^ Abrams, Natalie (March 22, 2016). "'Law & Order: SVU': Richard Belzer returning as Detective Munch". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved March 22, 2016.
- ^ Heffernan, Virginia (December 2, 2002). "The Meanest Roast". Slate. San Francisco, California. Retrieved December 2, 2002.
- ^ C.M. Crockford (August 5, 2022). "The Law & Order star you likely forgot had a role on South Park". Looper. Retrieved February 19, 2023.
- ^ "The Muppets Meet… Munch?". Observer. August 22, 2006. Retrieved February 8, 2021.
- ^ Birnbaum, Robert (November 18, 2013). "JFK Is Still Dead: Another Historiographical Moment". Virginia Quarterly Review. Charlottesville, Virginia: University of Virginia. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
- ^ "About the Author: Richard Belzer". Penguin Random House. Retrieved February 19, 2023.
- ^ "Dead Wrong". Skyhorse Publishing. Retrieved February 19, 2023.
- ^ "Hit List". Arcade Publishing. Retrieved February 19, 2023.
- ^ "Corporate Conspiracies". Arcade Publishing. Retrieved February 19, 2023.
- ^ a b Elias, Marilyn (Winter 2013). "Conspiracy Act". Intelligence Report. Montgomery, Alabama: Southern Poverty Law Center (152). Retrieved December 22, 2014.
- ^ "Someone Is Hiding Something". Arcade Publishing. Retrieved February 19, 2023.
- ^ a b c d e Koseluk, Chris (February 19, 2023). "Richard Belzer, Extraordinarily Smart-Ass as a Comic and a TV Cop, Dies at 78". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 19, 2023.
- ^ a b c Castro, Peter (March 29, 1993). "Richard Belzer: His Wit Honed by Anger, He's a Comic Who Has Gone from Stand-Up to Homicide". People. Vol. 39, no. 12. Archived from the original on September 17, 2008. RE Ross: "In 1971, a year before the end of his six-year marriage to Gail Susan Ross...." RE Danoch: "In 1976. Belzer worked himself into a second marriage with Dalia Danoch, a boutique manager, but it ended in divorce less than two years later."
- ^ a b c Hiaasen, Rob (February 20, 1997). "Detective Mensch: A dark comic with a sweetheart of a soul, Richard Belzer has found a new life with 'Homicide'". The Baltimore Sun. Baltimore, Maryland. Archived from the original on October 7, 2012. Retrieved October 7, 2012.
- ^ Hiaasen, p. 3
- ^ "Sex Stars of 1977". Playboy. December 1977.
- ^ "Hulk Hogan, Richard Belzer, Mr. T — Infamous Accident Live On TV 1984". YouTube. November 12, 2009. Archived from the original on November 18, 2021.[better source needed]
- ^ Corliss, Richard (April 15, 2001). "Hype! Hell Raising! Hulk Hogan!". Time. Archived from the original on June 29, 2011. Retrieved July 8, 2008.
- ^ a b Traub, Alex (February 19, 2023). "Richard Belzer, Detective Munch on 'Law & Order: S.V.U.,' Dies at 78". The New York Times. Retrieved February 19, 2023.
- ^ "Check out the stars you didn't know were related". TV Guide. Archived from the original on February 10, 2015. Retrieved November 13, 2013.
- ^ Coyle, Jake (February 19, 2023). "Richard Belzer, stand-up comic and TV detective, dies at 78". Associated Press. Retrieved February 19, 2023.
- Official website
- Richard Belzer at IMDb
- Richard Belzer at AllMovie
- NBC Biography
- Richard Belzer discography at Discogs
- 1944 births
- 2023 deaths
- 20th-century American comedians
- 20th-century American Jews
- 20th-century American male actors
- 21st-century American comedians
- 21st-century American male actors
- 21st-century American male writers
- American conspiracy theorists
- American expatriates in France
- American male film actors
- American male television actors
- American stand-up comedians
- American television talk show hosts
- Comedians from Connecticut
- Connecticut Democrats
- Dean College alumni
- Jewish American male actors
- Jewish American male comedians
- Jewish American writers
- Male actors from Bridgeport, Connecticut
- People from Alpes-Maritimes
- People from Aveyron
- Writers from Bridgeport, Connecticut