(DailyDig.com) – The 78-year-old actor, comedian, and TV regular Richard Belzer passed away on February 19. In recent years, Belzer and his wife of almost four decades, Harlee McBride, spent the majority of their time at a home they own in France.
By playing Detective John Munch in “Homicide: Life on the Streets” in 1993, he unexpectedly entered the dramatic genre. Following the first seven seasons of that show, Belzer continued to appear in the same role in “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” for an additional 15 seasons (with sporadic guest appearances after that).
The Groove Tube, a sketch comedy television show co-starring Belzer, Chevy Chase and singer Buzzy Linhart, was his first TV credit. In addition to working with Chase, John Belushi, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, Michael O’Donoghue, and Harold Ramis on “The National Lampoon Radio Hour,” he also wrote for and performed on the show. Most of them would go on to become “SNL” regulars. Back in the show’s early years, he sometimes appeared as a supporting character.
Belzer perfected his ultra-caustic tone and signature on-stage appearance in the 1980s. Several late-night talk programs had him on. In “Scarface,” Brian De Palma’s movie released in 1983, he played the role of emcee and made several jokes about cocaine.
Belzer said that he wasn’t interested in playing John Munch at first because it seemed out of character for a comedian, but that the show’s executive producer, Barry Levinson, heard him on Howard Stern’s radio program and took a chance on him. The character of John Munch has made more appearances on television (or been parodied in more television programs) than any other figure in the last 20 years.
Throughout the course of his career, Belzer wrote a number of books, some of which were comedic novels and others that blended truth and fiction to tell the story of his time spent collaborating with real New York City police. Four of his publications explore his interest in and research into conspiracy theories.
His fellow comedians broke the sad news of his death to the public on Sunday afternoon.
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