Richard Belzer death: Law & Order SVU star and comedian dies aged 78
Richard Belzer, the longtime star of NBC’s Law & Order franchise has died at the age of 78, according to his friends and former colleagues.
Belzer died at his home in Bozouls in southwest France on Sunday, writer Bill Scheft, a friend of the actor and veteran comedian, told The Hollywood Reporter.
“He had lots of health issues, and his last words were, ‘F**k you, motherf***er,’” he told the news outlet.
Belzer played the role of John Munch for 23 years on Homicide: Life on the Streets and Law & Order, starting in 1993. The Connecticut-born comedian retired from acting in 2016 and the age of 71.
Universal Television and NBC issued a joint statement on Sunday offering condolences.
“Anyone who ever had the pleasure of watching Richard Belzer portray Det. John Munch — whether on ‘Homicide’ or ‘Law & Order: SVU’ – over four decades will never forget how much he inhabited that beloved character to make it his own,” the statement said.
“His professionalism, talents and dedication to the craft made him a pillar in the industry, but it was his humor, compassion and loving heart that made him family.”
Dick Wolf, the creator of SVU also paid tribute to Belzer in a statement to Variety.
“Richard Belzer’s Detective John Munch is one of television’s iconic characters,” said Mr Wolf.
“I first worked with Richard on the ‘Law & Order’/’Homicide’ crossover and loved the character so much, I told Tom (Fontana) that I wanted to make him one of the original characters on ‘SVU.’
“The rest is history. Richard brought humor and joy into all our lives, was the consummate professional and we will all miss him very much.”
Belzer’s longtime friend, Laraine Newman, who worked with him on Saturday Night Live, took to Twitter to remember him.
“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,” she tweeted.
“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.”
Warren Leight, the SVU showrunner, also took to Twitter to pay tribute to Belzer and post video of his final scene on the show.
“Richard Belzer was the first actor to welcome me when I started at SVU. Open, warm, acerbic, whip smart, surprisingly kind. I loved writing for Munch, and I loved being with Belz. We sensed this would be his parting scene. Godspeed Belz…” he tweeted.
Julie Martin, an executive producer and writer for SVU, also paid tribute to the actor, tweeting broken heart emojis.
“Missing Richard Belzer today. Working with him on Homicide to SVU has been a hilarious, surprising and always joyful experience. I’m sure he’s giving ‘em all a lot of laughs upstairs,” she tweeted.
The character of Munch has appeared in nine TV series on five networks, more than any other fictional character, according to Variety.
The character’s 22 seasons on television were two more than Gunsmoke’s Marshall Matt Dillon or Frasier Crane, on Cheers and Frasier.
Belzer appeared as Munch as a guest star on 3rd Rock From the Sun, Arrested Development, 30 Rock, The Wire, The X-Files and The Beat.
He is survived by his third wife, actress Harlee McBride who he married in 1985, and stepdaughters Jessica and Bree.