Actor Richard Belzer

Richard Jay Belzer (born August 4, 1944) is an American retired actor, stand-up comedian, and author. He is best known for his role as BPD Detective, NYPD Detective/Sergeant, and DA Investigator John Munch, whom he has portrayed as a regular cast member on the NBC police drama series Homicide: Life on the Street and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, as well as in guest appearances on a number of other series. He portrayed the character for 23 years, from 1993 to 2016. Belzer retired from acting at age 71 in 2016.

Early life and education

Belzer was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the son of Frances and Charles Belzer, a tobacco and candy retailer. He grew up in a Jewish family. He described his mother as frequently physically abusive, and he declared that his comedy career began when trying to make his mother laugh in order to distract her from abusing him and his brother. After graduating from Fairfield Warde High School, Belzer worked as a reporter for the Bridgeport Post.

Belzer attended Dean College, which was then known as Dean Junior College, in Franklin, Massachusetts, but was expelled. He worked in a variety of jobs, including sales and as a census taker.



After his first divorce, Belzer relocated to New York City, moved in with singer Shelley Ackerman, and began working as a stand-up comic at Pips, The Improv, and Catch a Rising Star. He participated in the Channel One comedy group that satirized television and became the basis for the cult movie The Groove Tube, in which Belzer played the costar of the ersatz TV show The Dealers.

Belzer was the audience warm-up comedian for Saturday Night Live and made three guest appearances on the show between 1975 and 1980. He also opened for musician Warren Zevon during his tour supporting the release of his album Excitable Boy.


In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Belzer became an occasional film actor. A short skit of a younger Richard Belzer can be found on Sesame Street season 1, episode 1 when two young men attempt a picnic and boat ride, only to be thwarted by a dog who eats their food. He is noted for small roles in Fame, Café Flesh, Night Shift, and Scarface. He appeared in the music videos for the Mike + The Mechanics song “Taken In” and for the Pat Benatar song “Le Bel Age”, as well as the Kansas video “Can’t Cry Anymore”. He appeared in A Very Brady Sequel as an LAPD detective.


In addition to his film career, Belzer was a featured player on the National Lampoon Radio Hour with co-stars John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, and Harold Ramis, a half-hour comedy program aired on 600 plus U.S. stations from 1973 to 1975. Several of his sketches were released on National Lampoon albums, drawn from the Radio Hour, including several bits in which he portrayed a pithy call-in talk show host named “Dick Ballantine”.

In the late 1970s, he co-hosted Brink & Belzer on 660AM WNBC radio in New York City. He has been a frequent guest on The Howard Stern Show.

Following the departure of Randi Rhodes from Air America Radio, Belzer guest-hosted the afternoon program on the network.

Belzer has been a regular guest on the right-wing radio show of Alex Jones and appeared on the episode covering the Boston Marathon bombing, in which he referred to the bombing as a false flag event.


In the 1990s, Belzer appeared frequently on television. He was a regular on The Flash as a news anchor and reporter. In several episodes of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, he played Inspector William Henderson.

He followed that with starring roles on the Baltimore-based Homicide: Life on the Street (1993–1999) and the New York-based Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999–2013), portraying police detective John Munch in both series. Barry Levinson, Executive Producer of Homicide, said Belzer was a “lousy actor” in audition when he read lines from the script for “Gone for Goode”, the first episode in the series. Levinson asked Belzer to take time to reread and practice the material, then read it again. At his second reading, Levinson said Belzer was “still terrible”, but that the actor eventually found confidence in his performance.

In addition, Belzer has played Munch in episodes on seven other series and in a sketch on one talk show, making Munch the only fictional character to appear on eleven different television shows played by a single actor. These shows were on six different networks:

  • Homicide: Life on the Street (NBC)
  • Law & Order (NBC)
  • The X-Files (Fox)
  • The Beat (UPN)
  • Law & Order: Trial by Jury (NBC)
    Belzer’s appearance on Trial by Jury, which aired April 15, 2005, made him the third actor ever to play the same character in six different prime time TV series. The other two actors are John Ratzenberger and George Wendt, who played Cliff Clavin and Norm Peterson, respectively, in Cheers (1982–93); St. Elsewhere (1985); The Tortellis (1987); Wings (1990); The Simpsons (1994); and Frasier (2002).
  • Belzer’s appearance on Trial by Jury, which aired April 15, 2005, made him the third actor ever to play the same character in six different prime time TV series. The other two actors are John Ratzenberger and George Wendt, who played Cliff Clavin and Norm Peterson, respectively, in Cheers (1982–93); St. Elsewhere (1985); The Tortellis (1987); Wings (1990); The Simpsons (1994); and Frasier (2002).
  • Arrested Development (Fox)
  • The Wire (HBO)
  • 30 Rock (NBC)
    The characters are watching a Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode; a scene shot for 30 Rock
  • The characters are watching a Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode; a scene shot for 30 Rock
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (NBC)
  • Jimmy Kimmel Live! (ABC)
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix), in which he played a John Munch-like character on a fictional Law & Order spinoff.
  • In March 2016, executive producer Warren Leight announced Belzer would return to reprise the role in a May 2016 episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, titled “Fashionable Crimes”.

    Belzer portrayed Det. Munch for 22 consecutive seasons on Homicide (7 seasons) and Law & Order: SVU (15 seasons), which exceeded the previous primetime live-action record of twenty consecutive seasons held by James Arness (who portrayed Marshal Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke from 1955 to 1975) and Kelsey Grammer (as Dr. Frasier Crane on Cheers and Frasier from 1984 to 2004).

    Belzer appeared in several of Comedy Central’s televised broadcasts of Friars Club roasts. On June 9, 2001, Belzer himself was honored by the New York Friars Club and the Toyota Comedy Festival as the honoree of the first-ever roast open to the public. Comedians and friends on the dais included Roastmaster Paul Shaffer; Christopher Walken; Danny Aiello; Barry Levinson; Robert Klein; Bill Maher; SVU costars Mariska Hargitay, Christopher Meloni, Ice-T, and Dann Florek; and Law & Order’s Jerry Orbach. At the December 1, 2002, roast of Chevy Chase, Belzer said, “The only time Chevy Chase has a funny bone in his body is when I fuck him in the ass.”

    Belzer voiced the character of Loogie for most of the South Park episode titled “The Tooth Fairy Tats 2000”.[citation needed] He and Brian Doyle-Murray were featured in the tenth-season premiere of Sesame Street.


    Belzer believes there was a conspiracy to assassinate President John F. Kennedy and has written four books discussing conspiracy theories: UFOs, JFK, and Elvis: Conspiracies You Don’t Have to Be Crazy to Believe; Dead Wrong: Straight Facts on the Country’s Most Controversial Cover-Ups; Hit List: An In-Depth Investigation into the Mysterious Deaths of Witnesses to the JFK Assassination; and Someone Is Hiding Something: What Happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370? Dead Wrong and Hit List were written with journalist David Wayne and reached The New York Times Best Seller list. Someone Is Hiding Something was also written with David Wayne as well as radio talk show host George Noory. Belzer’s long-time character, John Munch, is also a believer in conspiracy theories, including the JFK assassination.

    Personal life

    Belzer’s first two marriages were to Gail Susan Ross (1966–72) and boutique manager Dalia Danoch (1976 – c. 1978), both of which ended in divorce. In 1981 in Los Angeles he met 31-year-old Harlee McBride, a divorcee with two daughters, Bree Benton and Jessica. McBride, who had been seen in Playboy magazine four years earlier in that year’s sex-in-cinema feature, in conjunction with Young Lady Chatterley, was appearing in TV commercials for Ford motors and acting in free theater when she met Belzer at the suggestion of a friend. The two married in 1985.

    Belzer survived testicular cancer in 1983. His HBO special and comedy CD Another Lone Nut pokes fun at this medical incident as well as his status as a well-known conspiracy theorist.

    On March 27, 1985, days prior to the inaugural WrestleMania, Belzer requested on his cable TV talk show Hot Properties that Hulk Hogan demonstrate one of his signature wrestling moves. After being asked by Belzer several times, Hogan put Belzer in a front chin-lock, which caused Belzer to pass out. When Hogan released him, Belzer hit his head on the floor, sustaining a laceration to the scalp that required a brief hospitalization. Belzer sued Hogan for $5 million and settled out of court. He used the incident in his HBO special Another Lone Nut as part of his stand-up routine.

    Belzer’s older brother, Leonard Belzer, died by suicide at age 73 in the early morning hours of July 30, 2014, by jumping from the roof of the New York City luxury apartment building in which he had resided. Belzer’s father had also died by suicide, in 1968.

    Belzer moved to live in the south of France, in a town called Bozouls, following his being written out of SVU.



    Year Film Role Notes
    1974 The Groove Tube Rodriguez
    Leo Batfish
    The President
    The Hooker
    Independent film
    1980 Fame M.C.
    1982 Café Flesh Loud-mouthed audience member
    1982 Author! Author! Seth Shapiro
    1982 Night Shift Pig
    1983 Scarface M.C. at Babylon Club
    1983 Likely Stories, Vol. 3 Richard
    1986 America Gypsy Beam AKA Moonbeam
    1986 Charlie Barnett’s Terms of Enrollment Man Reading Paper
    1987 Flicks Stoner (segment ‘New Adventures of the Great Galaxy’)
    1988 The Wrong Guys Richard ‘Belz’ Belzer
    1988 Freeway Dr. David Lazarus
    1989 The Big Picture Video Show Host
    1989 Fletch Lives Phil
    1990 The Bonfire of the Vanities Television Producer
    1991 The Flash II: Revenge of the Trickster Joe Kline
    1991 Missing Pieces Baldesari
    1991 Off and Running Milt Zoloth
    1992 Flash III: Deadly Nightshade Joe Kline
    1993 Mad Dog and Glory M.C./Comic
    1993 Dangerous Game Himself
    1994 North Barker
    1994 The Puppet Masters Jarvis
    1995 Not of this Earth Jeremy Pallin
    1996 Girl 6 Caller #4 – Beach
    1996 A Very Brady Sequel LAPD Detective
    1996 Get on the Bus Rick
    1998 The Bar Channel
    1998 Species II U.S. President
    1999 Jump Jerry
    2006 Copy That Richard
    2007 BelzerVizion Richard Belzer Also executive producer
    2009 Polish Bar Hershel
    2010 Santorini Blue Richard Also executive producer


    Year Film Role Notes
    1975–80 Saturday Night Live Juror
    Chevy Chase
    Museum Visitor
    Season 1 episode 1
    Season 2 episode 27
    Season 3 episode 61
    Season 5 episode 106 (uncredited)
    1978 Sesame Street Man in Row Boat #1 Episode: “(#1186)”
    1984 The Richard Belzer Show Himself Six episodes
    1985 Moonlighting Leonard Episode: “Twas the Episode Before Christmas”
    1986 Miami Vice Captain Hook Episode: “Trust Fund Pirates”
    1989 Tattingers Episode: “Ex-Appeal”
    AKA Nick & Hillary
    1990–91 The Flash Joe Kline 10 episodes
    1991 Monsters Buzz Hunkle Episode: “Werewolf of Hollywood”
    1992 Human Target Greene Episode: “Pilot”
    1993–99 Homicide: Life on the Street Det. John Munch 122 episodes, regular cast
    1994 Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman Inspector William Henderson Episode: “All Shook Up”
    Episode: “Witness”
    Episode: “Foundling”
    Episode: “The House of Luthor”
    1994 Nurses Jesse Wilner Episode: “Fly the Friendly Skies”
    1994 Bandit Bandit Big Bob TV film
    1994 Hart to Hart: Crimes of the Hart Det. Frank Giordano TV film
    1995 Prince for a Day Bernie Silver TV film
    AKA The Prince and the Pizza Boy
    1995 The Invaders Randy Stein TV film
    1996 Deadly Pursuits Mariano TV film
    1996–2000 Law & Order Det. John Munch Episode: “Charm City”
    Episode: “Baby, It’s You”
    Episode: “Sideshow”
    Episode: “Entitled”
    1997 The X-Files Det. John Munch Episode: “Unusual Suspects”
    1997 Richard Belzer: Another Lone Nut Himself HBO comedy special
    1997 When Cars Attack Himself TV film
    1997–98 E! True Hollywood Story Himself Episode: “Gilda Radner”
    Episode: “John Belushi”
    1998 Elmopalooza Himself
    1999 Mad About You Detective Sharp Episode: “Stealing Burt’s Car”
    1999–2016 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Det./Sgt. John Munch 325 episodes, regular cast
    2000 Homicide: The Movie Det. John Munch TV film based on the television series
    2000 The Beat Det. John Munch Episode: “They Say It’s Your Birthday”
    2000 South Park Loogie Voice
    Episode: “The Tooth Fairy Tats 2000”
    2000 3rd Rock from the Sun Himself Episode: “Dick’ll Take Manhattan: Part 1”
    2005 Law & Order: Trial by Jury Det. John Munch Episode: “Skeleton”
    This is a crossover sequel to the episode “Tombstone” from season 15 of the series Law & Order.
    2006 Arrested Development Det. John Munch Episode: “S.O.B.s” (uncredited)
    Episode: “Exit Strategy”
    2008 The Wire Sgt. John Munch Episode: “Took”
    2009 Jimmy Kimmel Live! Sgt. John Munch Episode dated October 7, 2009
    2009 Comedy Central Roast of Joan Rivers Himself
    2013 America Declassified Himself Season 1 episode 1
    2015 Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt A John Munch-like character One episode: “Kimmy Goes to the Doctor!”


  • UFOs, JFK, and Elvis: Conspiracies You Don’t Have to be Crazy to Believe, ISBN 0-345-42918-4
  • How to Be a Stand-Up Comic, ISBN 0-394-56239-9
  • I Am Not a Cop!, ISBN 1-4165-7066-7
  • I Am Not a Psychic!, ISBN 1-4165-7089-6
  • Dead Wrong: Straight Facts on the Country’s Most Controversial Cover-Ups, ISBN 1-6160-8673-4
  • Hit List: An In-Depth Investigation into the Mysterious Deaths of Witnesses to the JFK Assassination, ISBN 978-1620878071
  • Someone Is Hiding Something: What Happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370?, ISBN 978-1632207289
  • External Links

    Actor Richard Belzer – Wikipedia

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