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Richard Belzer, star of ‘Law & Order’, dead at 78

Richard Belzer started his career as a comedian before working on TV dramas.

Instagram: @MRbelzer

Actor and comedian Richard Belzer has passed away at the age of 78.

A longtime friend told The Hollywood Reporter that Belzer passed away early Sunday in his home in Bozouls, which is located in the southwest of France.

Born in Connecticut in 1944, Belzer began his career as a stand-up comedian in various clubs around New York.

This included work in the Channel One comedy group, as well as being the warm-up comedian for the audience in the early seasons of ‘Saturday Night Live’.

Belzer best known for his work on ‘Law & Order’

Belzer then went on to star in films like ‘Fame’, ‘Author! Author!’ and ‘Scarface’ in the 1980s, and after guest starring in TV series like ‘Moonlighting’ and ‘Miami Vice’, he landed recurring roles on ‘The Flash’ and ‘Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman’.

He then took on his iconic role as police detective John Munch in ‘Homicide: Life on the Street’ and then ‘Law & Order: SVU’.

Belzer played the role for 23 years across several different incarnations of the TV series before retiring form acting in 2016. His last appearance as John Munch came during a guest appearance on ‘Law & Order: SVU’ in 2016.

Munch was based on a real-life Baltimore detective who was highlight intelligent and diligent, and who believed in conspiracy theories and distrusted the system.

Belzer remembered

Longtime friend and fellow comedian Laraine Newman expressed her sadness on Twitter following word of Belzer’s passing.

“I’m so sad to hear of Richard Belzer’s passing,” the original ‘Saturday Night Live’ cast member tweeted. “I loved this guy so much. He was one of my first friends when I got to New York to do SNL.

“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.”

Along with acting, Belzer was also an author. He published books on a variety of topics, including ‘How to Be a Stand-Up Comic’ (1988), ‘UFOs, JFK, and Elvis: Conspiracies You Don’t Have to Be Crazy to Believe’ (2000), and ‘I Am Not a Cop!: A Novel’ (2008).