Richard Belzer Remembered by ‘Law & Order: SVU’ Co-Stars After His Death at 78

Richard Belzer attends 'Mistaken For Strangers' Opening Night Premiere during the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival at BMCC on April 17, 2013 in New York City. (Credit: Shutterstock)

Richard Belzer, a stand-up comedian and actor, who played TV detective John Munch on the hit NBC crime dramas Homicide: Life on the Street and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, has died. He was 78.

Former Saturday Night Live cast member Laraine Newman announced Belzer’s death on social media.

“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,” Newman tweeted Sunday. “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.”

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Ned Beatty and Richard Belzer on Homicide: Life on the Street (1993)Homicide: Life on the Street. (Credit: NBC)
Ned Beatty and Richard Belzer on Homicide: Life on the Street. (Credit: NBC)

Writer Bill Scheft told The Hollywood Reporter that Belzer passed away early Sunday at his home in Bozouls, France.

“He had lots of health issues, and his last words were, ‘F–k you, motherf—r,’” Scheft said.

Belzer began his entertainment career as a stand-up comic, before landing a role as cynical Det. John Munch on Homicide: Life on the Street. Munch went through a string of challenges, including running a failing bar with other homicide cops, the death of his partner Stanley “The Big Man” Bolander (Ned Beatty), and dealing with his ex-wives.

The beloved actor co-starred on the series about cops investigating murders in Baltimore from 1993–1999 — over the show’s entire run. He reprised the role on SVU and appeared on the Law & Order spinoff from 1999 to 2016. He also played Munch on one episode of Baltimore-set HBO crime series, The Wire.

Belzer was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1944. After graduating from high school, he worked as a reporter for the Bridgeport Post. He briefly attended Dean College in Massachusetts, and worked a variety of jobs, before becoming a comedian.

He eventually moved to New York City, performed in comedy clubs, and landed a gig as a warm-up comic at Saturday Night Live. He also appeared on three episodes of SNL between 1975 and 1980.

As news of Belzer’s death spread, he was remembered by his friends and former SVU co-costars on social media.

“Goodbye my dear, dear friend,” series star and executive producer Mariska Hargitay wrote in a statement on Instagram. “I will miss you, your unique light and your singular take on this strange world. I feel blessed to have known you and adored you and worked with you, side by side, for so many years. How lucky the angels are to have you. I hear them laughing already. I love you so very much, now and forever.”

Ice-T, who plays Det. Fin Tutuola on the series and was previously partnered with Belzer’s character Munch, posted a photo of the two TV partners together along with a heartfelt note.

“After one of the most amazing weeks of my life. I wake up to the news I lost my friend today. Belz is gone.. Damn it!” Ice-T wrote, referring to his star ceremony on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Friday. “But remember this..’When you ARE having real fun and are Truly Happy. ENJOY it to the fullest! Cause Pain is inevitably coming.’ I’ll miss you homie.”

Fellow SVU veteran Chris Meloni posted a photo of himself giving Belzer a peck on the cheek on Twitter, and included the caption: “Good bye mon ami. I love you.”

The official Law & Order account also paid tribute to Belzer with a statement on Twitter.

“Anyone who had the pleasure of watching Richard Belzer portray Det. John Munch will never forget how much he inhabited that beloved character to make it his own,” the statement read. “Our condolences go out to his loved ones as we join them in mourning his loss, but also in celebrating his memory.”