A comedian famous for acting as a sarcastic, cynical New York City detective in the Law & Order franchise died Sunday.
Richard Belzer, 78, died at his home in Bozouls, France, his friend Bill Scheft told The Hollywood Reporter.
“He had lots of health issues, and his last words were, ‘Fuck you, motherfucker,’” Scheft reportedly said.
Mr. Belzer was a warm-up comedian in the early days of “Saturday Night Live” before landing a role on “Homicide.”
He first portrayed the character Detective Munch in 1993 in the “Homicide” premiere. After that show, the actor carried the role over to “Law & Order: SVU,” which ended when he quit acting in 2016.
The role of Munch was based on a real-life Baltimore detective, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The character Belzer played was an intelligent, doggedly diligent investigator. Detective Munch believed in conspiracy theories and distrusted the justice system, which he saw with a jaded view.
During an episode in the first season, a police psychiatrist asks him, “Do you always deflect personal questions with jokes?”
“Do you always deflect jokes with personal questions?” replied Munch as he starts to leave, believing the interview over.
“We still have 45 minutes,” the psychiatrist told the detective.
“Well, I could give you a complete detailed account of my sex life,” was his deadpan response, “but what are we going to do with the other 44 minutes?”
The second season saw the Special Victims Unit investigator interviewing a 7-year-old girl.
“Hi, Jennifer, I’m Detective Munch,” he began.
The girl proceeded to tell him she thought Munch was a funny name.
“You think that’s funny?” Munch responded, “I guess if I ever have kids I’ll have to call them ‘munchkins.'”
Belzer’s character had appeared in episodes of “Law & Order” three times as crossover roles with “Homicide.” When the “Homicide” show ended, he had his agent contact producer Dick Wolf to say he thought he would be a good fit for “Law & Order,” according to the report.
The actor explained in his 2009 book “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Unofficial Companion” that he was in France with his wife celebrating the end of seven seasons of “Homicide.”
“And then I remembered that Benjamin Bratt was leaving L&O, and so I called my manager and said, ‘Call Dick Wolf — maybe Munch can become [Det. Lennie] Briscoe’s partner’ —- because we had teamed for the crossover,” Belzer recalled in the book.
Wolf reportedly liked the idea but informed the agent he had already cast someone else to play as Jerry Orbach’s partner on the show.
It worked out well for the comedic actor because Wolf kept him in mind for a new spinoff, “Law & Order: SVU.” Munch relocated from Baltimore to join the New York City squad. The show was such a hit, he remained for 14 years in the role that he said suited his personality. It lasted until he retired from acting.
Death is the greatest mystery, so maybe a wise-cracking, sarcastic person is asking tough questions in the afterlife.
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