Richard Belzer, the comedian and actor whose character John Munch recurred frequently in the Law & Order franchise, has died at age 78. His manager, Eric Gardner, told CNN that the star “passed away peacefully” at his home in France, early Sunday morning local time. Belzer’s friend, writer Bill Scheft, also confirmed the news to The Hollywood Reporter. “He had lots of health issues, and his last words were, ‘Fuck you, motherfucker,’” Scheft said.
Born in Connecticut in 1944, Belzer previously told Vulture that he had an “uncontrollable wit” growing up, with his antics getting him kicked out of multiple schools. He began his career in entertainment as a stand-up comedian after moving to New York in the mid-1970s, and would serve as the warm-up comedian for early seasons of Saturday Night Live. He made his film debut in 1974’s The Groove Tube, and continued to occasionally take small parts in movies — including Fame, Scarface, and Night Shift — throughout the next decade.
However, Belzer eventually became most known for his television role as the cynical detective Munch, which first appeared on NBC’s Homicide: Life on the Street in 1993. After the show ended, he moved to Law & Order: SVU, where his character was promoted to a sergeant position. Belzer ultimately starred in more than 300 episodes of the show between 1999 and 2016. “Anyone who had the pleasure of watching Richard Belzer portray Det. John Munch will never forget how much he inhabited that beloved character to make it his own,” the Law & Order account wrote in a Twitter tribute after news of his death broke. “Our condolences go out to his loved ones as we join them in mourning his loss, but also in celebrating his memory.”