Richard Belzer of ‘Law and Order’, ‘SNL’ fame, dies aged 78

(KTLA) – Richard Belzer, who played the cynical and conspiratorial John Munch in the Law and Order series for more than 20 years, has died. He was 78.

The news of his death was first shared by actress Laraine Newman, a “Saturday Night Live” original cast member.

“I am so sad to hear of the passing of Richard Belzer. I loved this guy so much,” Newman wrote on Twitter. “He was one of my first friends when I came to New York to do SNL. We used to go to Sheepshead Bay for dinner every week for lobster. One of the funniest people ever. A master of crowd work. RIP love.”

Writer Bill Scheft narrates The Hollywood Reporter Belzer, who had “a lot of health problems,” died early Sunday at his home in south-west France.

Belzer served as the warm-up comedian for the sketch comedy series for years before establishing himself as one of television’s most iconic law enforcement characters.

He began portraying Munch in the crime drama Homicide: Life on the Streets, a television series based on the book by then-Baltimore Sun reporter and future The Wire creator David Simon.

Belzer was on NBC’s Homicide for seven seasons before the series ended, but his character found a new home that included half of the detective team on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. Belzer’s Munch had several partners during his SVU career, including other detectives portrayed by Dean Winters and Michelle Hurd. But his most famous pairing came alongside Ice-T’s Fin Tutuola, who he shared the screen with for more than 13 years.

In addition to occasional appearances in the shared Law and Order universe, Belzer has also reprized his character in other television series, including The X-Files, Sesame Street, and 30 Rock.

A comedian at heart, Belzer continued to perform in stand-up while starring in one of network television’s most popular franchises. Videos of his comedy sets can be found on his website and other fellow comics shared clips of his celebrity roast appearances following news of his death.

Comedian Marc Maron called Belzer “an original” and “one of the greats”.

Patton Oswalt said of Belzer, “I always thought he would be there because it seemed like he had always been there. A real original.”

Comedy Central, the television network for comics and comedy sitcoms, posted a tribute on Twitter that read, “Richard Belzer was a seminal comedian who influenced generations of stand-ups. We will miss his voice.”

According to his online biography, before making it big in showbiz, Belzer worked as a teacher, census taker, jewelry salesman, longshoreman, and reporter for several Connecticut newspapers.

Belzer is survived by his wife and former Homicide co-star Harlee McBride. Richard Belzer of ‘Law and Order’, ‘SNL’ fame, dies aged 78

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