Sadly, It’s Munch Time- Richard Belzer Dies at 78

Everett Collection /
Everett Collection /

Storied standup comedian and actor Richard Belzer passed on February 19th in his home in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, in southern France. Longtime friend Bill Scheft who had been working with Belzer on a documentary about the star said there was no immediate known cause of death, but he had been having circulatory and raspatory problems.

While appearances on “30 Rock” and “Arrested Development” were roles people recognized him for, it was his time as detective John Munch that most people remember him for. First appearing in the role on “Homicide: Life On The Street,” in 1993, the conspiracy theory fanatic and divorce-prone Jewish detective struck a chord with many people.

Executive producer Barry Levinson brought him on the show after hearing him on “The Howard Stern Show.” With no audition, Levinson said “I would never be a detective. But if I were, that’s how I’d be., They write to all my paranoia and anti-establishment dissidence and conspiracy theories. So it’s been a lot of fun for me. A dream, really.”

This stroke of kismet gave Belzer a role for two decades and cemented him as a legend in TV show history, and a pillar of what a TV detective could be.

Honing his chops with standup comedy, Belzer performed with the “National Lampoon Radio Hour,” where his costars John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, and others sprang from the platform to huge roles in “SNL,” and other shows. Belzer meanwhile took smaller cameos, like in 1983’s “Scarface.” Nevertheless, he made every role his own, and for many, this is one candle that lit the way for many greats in comedy.