Richard Belzer

Richard Belzer

Belzer at the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2009
Birth name Richard Jay Belzer
Born (1944-08-04) August 4, 1944
Bridgeport, Connecticut
Medium Stand-up
Nationality American
Years active 1972–present
Genres Political satire
Observational comedy
Subject(s) American culture
American politics
Current events
Mass media
Spouse Gail Susan Ross (m. 1966; div. 1972)
Dalia Danoch (m. 1976; div. 1978)
Harlee McBride (m. 1985)
Notable works and roles John Munch on Homicide: Life on the Street
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

Richard Jay Belzer (born August 4, 1944)[1] is an American stand-up comedian, author,[2] and actor. He is best known for his role as John Munch,[3] whom he has portrayed as a regular cast member on the NBC police drama series Homicide: Life on the Street[4] and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,[3] as well as in guest appearances on a number of other series. He portrayed the character for 23 years from 1993 to 2016.

Early life and education

Belzer was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the son of Frances and Charles Belzer, a tobacco and candy retailer.[1] He grew up in a Jewish[5] family. He described his mother as frequently physically abusive, and declared that his comedy career began when trying to make his mother laugh in order to distract her from abusing him and his brother.[6] 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 for "leading demonstrations for truly stupid causes."[7] He worked at 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."[8]

Belzer was the audience warm-up comedian for Saturday Night Live[9] and made three guest appearances on the show between 1975 and 1980.[10] 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. 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.[11] 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 Ballentine".

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.

In 1987, he hosted a morning drive program on WJFK-FM in Washington, DC.[12]

Following the departure of Randi Rhodes from Air America Radio, Belzer guest-hosted the afternoon program on the network.[13]


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 (1993–99) and the New York–based Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999–2013), portraying police detective John Munch in both series.[4] Barry Levinson, executive director 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.[14] 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.[15]

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:

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".[18]

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." [19]

Belzer voiced the character of Loogie for most of the episode of South Park entitled "The Tooth Fairy Tats 2000". 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[20] 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?.[21] Dead Wrong and Hit List were written with journalist David Wayne and reached The New York Times Best Seller list.[21] Someone Is Hiding Something was also written with David Wayne as well as radio talk show host George Noory.

Personal life

Belzer's first two marriages were to Gail Susan Ross (1966–72)[22] and boutique manager Dalia Danoch (1976 – c. 1978),[22] both of which ended in divorce. In 1981 in Los Angeles he met 31-year-old Harlee McBride, a divorcee with two daughters,[23] Bree Benton and Jessica.[24] 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,[25] was appearing in TV commercials for Ford motors and acting in free theater, when she met Belzer at the suggestion of a friend.[23] The two married in 1985.[22]

Belzer survived testicular cancer in 1983.[23] 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.[26] When Hogan released him, Belzer hit his head on the floor, sustaining a laceration to the scalp that required a brief hospitalization.[27] Belzer sued Hogan for $5 million and settled out of court. On October 20, 2006, on Bubba the Love Sponge, it was claimed (with Hogan in the studio) that the settlement totaled $5 million, half from Hogan and half from wrestling promoter Vince McMahon. During his June 23, 2008, appearance on Sirius Satellite Radio's The Howard Stern Show, Belzer suggested that the settlement amount was closer to $400,000.[28] He used the incident in his HBO special Another Lone Nut in his stand-up routine.

Belzer's older brother, Leonard Belzer (age 73) committed suicide in the early morning hours of July 30, 2014, by jumping from the 11th floor of his New York City luxury apartment building. Initial reports of Richard Belzer's death were incorrect.[29] Belzer’s father had also committed suicide in 1968.

Belzer is a cousin of actor Henry Winkler.[30]


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
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: "(#10.1)"
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 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 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
1997–98 E! True Hollywood Story Himself Episode: "Gilda Radner"
Episode: "John Belushi"
1998 Elmopalooza Himself
1999–2016 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Det./Sgt. John Munch 325 episodes, regular cast
2000 Homicide: The Movie Det. John Munch (NYPD) 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 Himself/Det. John Munch Episode: "S.O.B.s" (uncredited as himself)
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[16][17] One episode: "Kimmy Goes to the Doctor!"



  1. 1 2 "Richard Belzer Biography (1944–)". Retrieved October 7, 2012.
  2. "Richard Belzer's Books".
  3. 1 2 Belzer, Richard (2013-10-16). "Munch Madness". The Huffington Post.
  4. 1 2 3 Locker, Melissa (October 16, 2013). "Farewell, Detective Munch: Richard Belzer's Cop Character Leaves SVU". Time.
  5. Steinberg, Jacques (14 January 2009). "Two Funny Guys With the Same Name, but Not the Same Jokes". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
  6. Sauchelli, Dana; Fasick, Kevin (July 30, 2014). "Richard Belzer's brother jumps to his death". New York Post.
  8. "The Groove Tube". IMDb. Amazon. Retrieved September 4, 2016.
  9. Getlen, Larry (September 24, 2010). "'Uncontrollable Wit': An Interview with Law & Order's Richard Belzer". AARP. AARP. Retrieved September 4, 2016.
  10. "Richard Belzer". IMDb. Amazon. Retrieved September 4, 2016.
  11. "'The National Lampoon Radio Hour'". NPR. November 17, 2003.
  13. Shea, Danny (18 April 2008). "Richard Belzer to Fill in During Randi Rhodes' Air America Time Slot". Huffington Post. Retrieved 14 June 2014.
  14. Mendoza, Manuel (2003-06-11). "Revisit 'Life on the Street'". The Dallas Morning News. Dallas, Texas. p. 1E.
  15. Levinson, Barry (2003). Homicide Life on the Street – The Seasons 1 & 2 (DVD audio commentary). A&E Home Video.
  16. 1 2 Cruz, Rachel (March 12, 2015). "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Recap: "Kimmy Goes to the Doctor"". Retrieved March 22, 2016. ...she and Titus (Tituss Burgess) come across an old episode of Law Squiggle Order where Coriolanus Burt (James Monroe Iglehart) is in a scene with actor Richard Belzer.
  17. 1 2 Smith, Courtney E.; Peterson, Jessie (March 6, 2015). "Everything We Learned From the 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt'". Retrieved March 22, 2016. There was a Law & Order star, Richard Belzer, in a fake spin-off.
  18. Abrams, Natalie (March 22, 2016). "'Law & Order: SVU': Richard Belzer returning as Detective Munch". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved March 22, 2016.
  19. "The Meanest Roast". Slate. Retrieved 2 December 2002.
  20. Birnbaum, Robert (November 18, 2013). "JFK Is Still Dead: Another Historiographical Moment". Virginia Quarterly Review. Charlottesville, Virginia. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
  21. 1 2 Elias, Marilyn (Winter 2013). "Conspiracy Act". Intelligence Report. Southern Poverty Law Center (152). Retrieved December 22, 2014.
  22. 1 2 3 Castro, Peter (March 29, 1993). "Richard Belzer: His Wit Honed by Anger, He's a Comic Who Has Gone from Stand-Up to Homicide". People. 39 (12). RE Ross: "In 1971, a year before the end of his six-year marriage to Gail Susan Ross...." RE Danoch: "In 1976. Belzer worked himself into a second marriage with Dalia Danoch, a boutique manager, but it ended in divorce less than two years later."
  23. 1 2 3 Hiaasen, Rob (February 20, 1997). "Detective Mensch: A dark comic with a sweetheart of a soul, Richard Belzer has found a new life with 'Homicide'". The Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on October 7, 2012. Retrieved October 7, 2012.
  24. Hiaasen, p/ 3
  25. "Sex Stars of 1977". Playboy. December 1977.
  26. Video on YouTube
  27. Corliss, Richard (June 24, 2001). "Hype! Hell Raising! Hulk Hogan!". Time. Archived from the original on June 29, 2011. Retrieved 2008-07-08.
  29. Sauchelli, Dana; Fasick, Kevin (July 30, 2014). "Richard Belzer's brother jumps to his death". New York Post.
  30. "Henry Winkler Pictures, Richard Belzer Photos - Photo Gallery: Surprising Celebrity Family Ties". TV Guide. Retrieved October 31, 2014.
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