February 19, 2023
The great — and edgy — Richard Belzer died today at 78.
He was at his home in France when he died, and his confirmed last words were: "F**k you, motherf**ker!" — definitely in keeping with his raunchy stand-up persona.
Belzer was a comedian's comedian — the tributes to his craft on social media are countless — and in spite of being a world-class smart-ass onstage, was seemingly universally beloved as a gent.
Born August 4, 1944, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, he did not pursue a comedy career in earnest until he was pushing 30. After his first of two failed marriages, Belzer took off for NYC with Shelley Ackerman (1953-2020), a singer.
Once there, Belzer joined the Channel One TV-satire comedy troupe "on a lark," he later said. This association fortuitously led to his silver-screen debut, in The Groove Tube (1974), now a cult-classic comedy.
He was on the radio, hosted 1985's Hot Properties — on which Hulk Hogan (b. 1953) put him in a sleeper hold, causing Belzer to pass out, bang his head and nearly die — and palled around with the original SNL cast. He was on the show in 1975 (the premiere), 1976 and 1980, and also served as its audience warm-up comic.
Belzer "the Belz" was on a number of TV shows (including appearing in a 1978 Sesame Street short) and in quite a few films.
Some of his movie appearances (he was often playing himself or a version of himself) include Scarface (1983), The Wrong Guys (1988), Dangerous Game (1993) and Man on the Moon (1999).
But in spite of an enviable TV and film presence, it was his almost impossibly long run playing Det. Munch that defines his acting career. He played the gruff officer on hundreds of episodes of television and over half a dozen different shows, mainly Homicide: Life on the Street (1993-1999) and Law & Order: SVU (1999-2016).
After his work on SVU wrapped, he provided a voice on American Dad! and played himself in The Comedian (both 2016), then retired, battling multiple health issues.
RIP to the tough cookie who said of Ann Coulter (b. 1961) — while she was listening on the same show — that she's "a repugnant person who says the most vile things. She lies. She's a liar ... Some people, you have to call them for what they are."
That was Richard Belzer. He called 'em like he saw 'em.