HOLLYWOOD — Richard Belzer, acclaimed comedian and long-time actor in NBC's long running Law and Order franchise, has died at 78. The news first broke from long-time friend Laraine Newman, who worked with Belzer during his many appearances in the early years of Saturday Night Live.
Between Homicide: Life on the Streets and Law & Order, Belzer played the role of John Munch for 23 years beginning in 1993. Belzer retired from acting in 2016 at the age of 71.
Belzer was born in Connecticut in 1944. He described his mother as physically abusive and claimed his comedy career began when he would make his mom laugh to distract her from beating both him and his brother.
After his first divorce in 1972, he began his acting career, becoming a staple of The Improv and Catch a Rising Star. Belzer became the audience warm-up act for Saturday Night Live between 1975 and 1980. He was also a feature player on the National Lampoon Radio Hour with John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, and Harold Ramis.
But his most iconic move came in 1993 when he was cast as the star of Homicide: Life on the Streets. In 1999, Belzer's Detective Munch moved to Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. The character appeared in several others shows across multiple networks in programs including The X-Files (FOX), Arrested Development (FOX), The Wire (HBO), and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix).
After two divorces, Belzer met Harlee McBride in 1981. The two married in 1985 and were together for more than 40 years until his passing.