Beloved comedian Richard Belzer began as a shrewd stand-up performer before becoming more famous as the cynical but determined detective John Munch in Murder: Life on the Streets And Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, has died. He was 78.
Belzer died early Sunday morning at his home in Bozouls, southwestern France, writer Bill Scheft, a longtime friend of the actor, said. Hollywood Reporter. Scheft said: “He had a lot of health problems and his last words were: ‘Fuck you, you son of a bitch’.
Belzer makes his movie debut in fun movie groove pipe (1974), warming the audience in the early days of Saturday Night Live and was famously put to sleep by Hulk Hogan.
Munch first appeared in 1993 in the first episode of Murder and his last in 2016 on Law & Order: SVU. In between those two NBC dramas, Belzer has played the detective in eight other films, and his character outlived James Arness’ in gun smoke and Kelsey Grammer is on Congratulations And Frasier.
Undoubtedly one of the most memorable cops in television history, Munch – based on a real-life Baltimore detective – is a diligent, highly intelligent investigator who believes in conspiracy theories, not trust the system and pursue justice with a blind eye. He often uses dry, harsh words to prove his point: “I am a homicide detective. The only time I wonder why is when they tell me the truth,” was Munch’s typical reply.
In a 2016 interview for the website The Interviews: An Oral History of Television, Murder Executive producer Barry Levinson recalls hearing Belzer on Howard Stern . Program and like him for Munch. “We were looking at some other actors, and when I heard him, I said, ‘Why don’t we find out about Richard Belzer? Levison said. “I like the rhythm in the way he talks. And that’s how it happened.”
The pencil-thin Belzer portrayed Munch in all seven seasons of the NBC series. When it ended in 1999, the actor was still not ready to say goodbye to the role. He appeared as Munch on NBC’s . Law & Order three times between 1996-99 and thought he might be a good fit for that show.
“When Murder canceled, I was in France with my wife and she said, ‘Open a bottle of champagne and toast: You’ve been playing this character for seven years,’ Belzer recounts in the 2009 book. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Unofficial Companion. “And then I remembered that Benjamin Bratt had left WORRYand so I called my manager and said, ‘Call Dick Wolf – maybe Munch could be [Det. Lennie] Briscoe’s partner—- because we partnered for crossover. So he called and Dick said, ‘What a great idea, but I picked Jesse Martin as the newcomer. [opposite Jerry Orbach].’”
However, Wolf is in the process of developing a Law & Order spinoff to focus on the NYPD’s Special Victims Unit, the division that investigates sex-based crimes. He wants Munch for that.
When Law & Order: SVU launched in September 1999, Munch moved from Baltimore to New York to join forces with Det. Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Det. Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni). Captain Donald Cragen (Dann Florek) is brought in from Law & Order be the team captain.
Munch’s ironic demeanor turned out to be perfect for the series’ gritty tone, and Belzer stayed on for 14 seasons. The character announced his retirement from the NYPD in 2014, but Munch returned a few years later for the 17th season episode “Fashion Crime”.
Belzer as Munch appeared in a 1997 episode of File X appropriately dealt with the source of the show’s resident masterminds – the Lone Gunmen. He also appeared on Rhythm, Law & Order: Trial by jury And Wire and play the policeman to laugh Development caught, 30 stones And Kimmy Schmidt Unbreakable. A puppet that looks like Munch even appeared on Sesame Street.
“I have never asked anyone to join their program. So I feel doubly flattered to see me portrayed in a script and that I’m so recognizable and likable as a satirical detective and a smart guy,” Belzer said in an interview. interview in 2008. “I’m glad he’s a great character for me to play, that’s exciting for me. So I’m not upset about being typecast at all.
Richard Jay Belzer was born on August 4, 1944 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. His interest in comedy grew from an abusive childhood and a mother who beat him and his brother, Len.
“She always had some reason to hit us,” he said. Everybody magazine in 1993. “My kitchen is the toughest room I’ve ever worked in. I have to make my mom laugh or I’ll get kicked in the butt.”
Belzer’s self-described “uncontrollable intelligence” in the classroom often got him into trouble, and his time at Massachusetts’ Dean Junior College came to an abrupt end when he was expelled. for organizing protests on campus. A series of odd jobs followed, including census worker, dock worker, and jewelry salesman. For a time, he pursued a career as a journalist and worked for Bridgeport Post Office newspaper.
A tragedy led Belzer to reevaluate his priorities. Three years after his mother, Frances, died of breast cancer, his father, Charles, a salesman, grieving over his wife’s death, attempted suicide in 1967. Belzer found him and saved his life, but a year later, his father succeeded. (Belzer’s brother, radio producer Comedy Hour programwould also die by suicide, jumping from the roof of his Upper West Side apartment building in 2014 after his wife, Sesame Street director Emily Squires, has passed away.)
His father’s death had hit him hard, he said, and he decided it was time to take a risk and try comedy.
Curious, Belzer responded to an ad in Voice of the village to audition for Channel One, an East Village comedy troupe led by Ken Shapiro and Lane Sarasohn. He performed the things he honed growing up – including imitating Marlon Brando, Jerry Lewis and, at his mitzvah bar, Bob Dylan – and landed a gig that year. 1971.
Call its program pipe groove, Channel One specializes in skits that satirize television conventions such as clowns in children’s shows and showrunners. “Let’s go see pipe groove,” wrote Clive Barnes in a 1969 review for The New York Times. “That’s so much better than staying at home and watching TV.”
Channel One has enhanced its world of fake television by simultaneously broadcasting skits on three TV screens in theaters. Shapiro and Sarasohn also videotaped the performances and compiled them into a program to perform at local colleges.
The feedback was strong enough to turn the idea into a movie deal, into an R-rated, sketchy film. groove pipe. Belzer portrayed a low-class drug dealer in a police parody, an American president wooing a foreign dignitaries, and a black-faced prostitute. (The film was also Chevy Chase’s first film.).
Belzer said in a 2010 interview with The AV Club: “We were so excited — when we wrote it, when we filmed it, when we premiered it, and when we realized we were going to do it. a movie. “It’s really underground in the sense that before it was a movie, we had a small theater and we showed pipe groove on three screens in a 90-seat theater. So for people to pay to watch television, before cable, it was quite innovative.”
Belzer’s success with Channel One led to independent gigs at New York clubs such as Catch a Rising Star, the Improv, and Pips. He performed on Lampoon National Radio Time with Chase, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis. And when Lorne Michaels came out Saturday Night Live In 1975, he invited Belzer to be the comedian warm-up for the audience. (Belzer said groove pipe was Michael’s inspiration for SNL.)
He told NPR in 1989: “It’s emotional to be a part of that because – no matter what people say – a lot of people don’t know how that’s going to be accepted,” he told NPR. in 1989. kids were the key to the store — so all these ‘anti-establishments’ had a TV show online. So they asked me to do some sketches and warm-ups. I just did what I did in the nightclub. I talked to the audience. I did some of my material, but I tried to improvise and advertise as much as I could. And it’s fun to do it in a TV studio and not in a nightclub.
Belzer hosted the short Lifetime talk show Hot Attribute, where his guests in March 1985 included Hogan and Mr. T, was there to promote the opening ceremony of WrestleMania. The 6-foot-8, 300-pound Hogan placed the 6-foot-1, 150-pound Belzer into a front chin lock, knocked him unconscious, and then dropped him to the floor, where the comedian limped into his head, puddles of blood.
“He almost killed me,” Belzer told Roy Firestone in 1990. “I was told by a sports medicine specialist that if I fell a few inches I could be disabled for life, I could dead. “He sued Hogan, Mr. T, Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation demanded $5 million and received $400,000 reported in a 1990 settlement, which he said he used to prepay for his house at France.
Meanwhile, disappointment grew as Belzer watched contemporaries like Chase, Robin Williams and Steve Martin become rich through filming. He admitted in his own time Everybody interviews he agreed to appear on everything goesa hot cable TV show, for the sole reason of paying for a family vacation in Hawaii.
Belzer describes the format: “Three contestants come out and the celebrity panel scrutinizes them. “Then the female contestants had to stick their bare breasts through a cut or the male to reveal their bare butt, and the judges guessed who it was. Finally, during the attribution, the camera zooms in on me and I say: ‘I do it for the money.’ It was the only time I sold out tickets in my life.”
And then John Munch changed everything.
Belzer also plays the MC – basically himself – in Reputation (1980) and scar face (1983) and has small parts in Author! Author! (1982), Night shift (1982), movie (1983), America (1986), Fletch’s Life (1989), Big picture (1989), Flame of vanity (1990), Get on the bus (1996) and Man on the Moon (1999).
He also had a recurring role in the 1990s series flash lightplayed Inspector Henderson on Lois & Clark: Superman’s New Adventure and guest-starred in music videos for Pat Benatar and Mike + the Mechanics.
Then there’s the author Belzer; he published books on many topics, including 1988 books How to become an indie comic; the 2000s UFOs, JFK and Elvis: Conspiracy You Don’t Have To Be Crazy To Believe; and 2008 I’m Not a Policeman!: Fictioncenters on an actor named Richard Belzer who plays a television cop named Munch and investigates a murder.
Survivors include his third wife, actress Harlee McBride (they were married in 1985, and she played medical examiner Alyssa Dyer in the film). Murder), and stepdaughters Jessica and Bree.
Mike Barnes contributed to this report.