“Munch is the guy who says what a lot of people wouldn't dare say.” Richard Belzer (on his long running character, Detective John Munch)
American actor, standup comedian, writer and producer Richard Belzer is famous for his portrayal of Detective John Munch on the NBC acclaimed series “Homicide: Life on the Street” (1993 to 1999) and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (1999 to present). He was nominated for a People's Choice Award for his work in the latter series. He also played a regular role in “The Flash” (1991-1991) and a recurring role in “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” (1994) and has guest starred in numerous shows, such as “Miami Vice,” “The X Files,” “Mad About You,” “Arrested Development” and “The Wire.” Belzer's film credits include “Night Shift” (1982), “Scarface” (1983), “The Big Picture” (1989), “Mad Dog and Glory” (1993), “North” (1994), “Girl 6” (1996), “Species II” (1998), “Santorini Blue” (2010) and “Polish Bar” (2010). As a comedian, Belzer starred in the comedy specials “Richard Belzer in Concert” (HBO, 1986), “Belzer on Broadway” (Showtime, 1992) and “Another Lone Nut” (HBO, 1997). He was also the host of the cable talk show “Hot Properties” (Lifetime, 1985).
Belzer has written several books, such as “UFOs, JFK, and Elvis: Conspiracies You Don't Have to be Crazy to Believe,” “How to Be a Stand-Up Comic,” “Momentum: The Struggle for Peace, Politics, and the People,” “I Am Not a Cop” and “I Am Not a Psychic.” In addition to writing his comedy specials, he also contributed to the 1997 TV movie “When Cars Attack” and the 2007 short “Le viager,” which was directed by Clark Johnson.
As for his personal life, Belzer is married to actress Harlee McBride. He was previously married to Gail Susan Ross (1966 - 1972) and Dalia Danoch (1976 - 1978). He owns homes in New York City and France. Belzer is a survivor of testicular cancer.
Childhood and Family:
The son of Frances and Charles Belzer (a candy and tobacco retailer), Richard Jay Belzer was born on August 4, 1944, in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Growing up with his parents and older brother Leonard, he was ignored and physically abused by his mother. He emerged as a rebellious youngster and was expelled from almost every school he attended. Eventually, he graduated from Andrew Warde High School in the neighboring town of Fairfield, Connecticut. His mother passed away of breast cancer when Richard was 18 years old and his father committed suicide four years later.
After high school, Richard worked as a reporter for “The Bridgeport Post,” a paper he delivered to homes as a boy. He then attended Dean Junior College in Franklin, Massachusetts, but was asked to leave after a few semesters because of his involvement in student demonstrations. After a stint with the Army, he relocated to New York City and began a career as a standup comedienne. Richard also worked briefly as a yoga instructor.
Richard has been married three times. He was married to Gail Susan Ross from 1966 to 1972 and Dalia Danoch from 1976 to 1978. He married actress Harlee McBride (born Sarilda Paulette Mitchell on November 20, 1948) in 1985. He has two stepdaughters, Jessica Erin Benton and Shannon Bree Benton (who acts occasionally under the name Bree Benton), from McBride's previous marriage. He is the cousin of actor/producer/director Henry Winkler (born October 30, 1945). Richard is known by his friends by the nickname The Belz.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Richard Belzer kicked off his comedy career in New York City after a stint with the Army. In N.Y.C., he lived with singer Shelley Ackerman and landed standup gigs at Pips, The Improv, and Catch a Rising Star. He worked with other writers and comics in the comedy group Channel One, which satirized television programming at an East Village club that aired their skits on televisions. He later served as the show's television news anchor, replacing colleague Chevy Chase. Both Belzer and Chase starred in the cult movie “The Groove Tube” (1974), a compilation of the troupe’s best skits that was directed by Ken Shapiro.
From 1973 to 1974, Belzer wrote and performed on the comedy radio show “The National Lampoon Radio Hour” with costars like John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner and Harold Ramis. The program was broadcasted nationally and several of his sketches were released on National Lampoon albums. Belzer also participated in the off-Broadway production “The National Lampoon Show” (1975), with Radner and Belushi. He would continue working with them on “Saturday Night Live” and then appeared as a guest performer in three episodes between 1976 and 1980. In the late 1970s, Belzer co-hosted the series “Brink & Belzer” on the WNBC AM radio station in New York City.
Belzer began acting regularly in the 1980s. Beginning with a role in “Fame” (1980), a critically acclaimed musical directed by Alan Parker, he went on to land a supporting role in the comedy “Student Bodies” (1981). He also had an unaccredited part in “Café Flesh” (1982), worked with Al Pacino, Dyan Cannon, Tuesday Weld, Alan King, Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding in Arthur Hiller's “Author! Author” (1982), was cast with his cousin, Henry Winkler, and Michael Keaton, Shelley Long and Clint Howard in the Ron Howard directed comedy “Night Shift” (1982) and was featured in “Scarface” (1983), a film directed by Brian De Palma that starred Al Pacino, Steven Bauer and Michelle Pfeiffer.
Following an early appearance in an episode of the children's TV show “Sesame Street” in the late 1970s, Belzer played Leonard in an episode of “Moonlighting” called “Twas the Episode Before Christmas” (1985) and Captain Hook in the “Miami Vice” episode titled “Trust Fund Pirates” (1986). He then returned to the big screen with roles in Robert Downey Sr.'s “America” (1986), Peter Winograd and Kirk Henderson's “Flick” (1987), Danny Bilson's “The Wrong Guys” (1988), Francis Delia's “Freeway” (1988), Christopher Guest's “The Big Picture” (1989) and Michael Ritchie's “Fletch Lives” (1989, starred Chevy Chase).
During the 1980s, Belzer also played the comedy circuits and showed off his comedy on various TV networks. He headlined “Belzer Behind Bars” (1983), which brought him and fellow comedian Paul Rodriguez to Arizona State Prison to perform for convicts, and was a regular performer on the syndicated talk show “Thicke of the Night” (1983-1984), which was hosted by Allan Thicke. He hosted his own sketch comedy series on Cinemax called “The Richard Belzer Show” (1984), made a guest appearance on HBO’s “Comic Relief” (1986) and was a regular guest on “Late Night with David Letterman” (1989-1993). In addition, he hosted the cable late night talk show “Hot Properties” (Lifetime, 1985) and starred in his own comedy special on HBO, “Richard Belzer in Concert” (1986). It was while working on “Hot Properties” that Belzer became injured after Hulk Hogan demonstrated a stranglehold on him. The host later sued The Hulk for $5 million, but the case was settled out of court. He used the settlement to buy his home in France.
In the early 1990s, Belzer appeared in such movies as “The Bonfire of the Vanities” (1990), a comedy starring Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis and Melanie Griffith that was directed by Brian De Palma, “Off and Running” (1991), “Missing Pieces” (1991), “Mad Dog and Glory” (1993, starred Robert De Niro and Uma Thurman) and Abel Ferara's “Dangerous Game” (1993, starred Harvey Keitel). On television, in addition to guest roles in “What a Dummy” (1990), “Monsters” (1991), “Good Sports” (1991), “Human Target” (1992) and “Nurses” (1994), he portrayed the role of Joe Kline on the CBS series “The Flash” (1990-1991). He also starred in the Showtime comedy special “Belzer on Broadway” in 1992 and appeared in the television movie “Bandit, Bandit” in 1994. He then landed the recurring role of no-nonsense Inspector Henderson on the ABC superhero series “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” (4 episodes, 1994).
However, Belzer did not gain widespread fame until he was cast as Detective John Munch on the NBC series “Homicide: Life On the Street,” which was originally based on David Simon's book “Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets.” The show ran from January 1993 to May 1999 and won Television Critic's Awards for Outstanding Drama in 1996, 1997 and 1998. It also picked up Peabody Awards for Best Drama in 1993, 1995 and 1997. While on the series, Belzer played roles in such films as Rob Reiner’s “North” (1994), “The Puppet Masters” (1994), “Not of This Earth” (1995), Spike Lee's “Girl 6” (1996), “A Very Brady Sequel” (1996), “Get on the Bus” (1996), “Species II” (1998) and “Jump” (1999) as well as in the TV films “Prince for a Day” (1995), “The Invaders” (1995) and “Deadly Pursuits” (1996). He also played Detective Munch in an episode of “The X Files” called “Unusual Suspects” (1997) and appeared as Detective Sharp in an episode of “Mad About You” titled “Stealing Burt's Car” (1999). In addition, he starred in the HBO comedy special “Another Lone Nut” (1997).
After the conclusion of “Homicide: Life On the Street,” Belzer reprised the role of John Munch on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” the first spin-off of the “Law & Order” franchise, which premiered on NBC on September 20, 1999, and is still going strong. “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” has become the highest rated series of the “Law & Order” franchise and the top rated scripted drama on NBC. It has been nominated for and won numerous awards.
Entering the new millennium, Belzer played Detective John Munch in the TV movie “Homicide: The Movie” (2000) and in an episode of the Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson UPN police series “The Beat” called “They Say It's Your Birthday” (2000). The same year, he provided the voice of Loogie in an episode of “South Park” called “The Tooth Fairy's Tats 2000.”
In 2005, Belzer played Detective Munch in an episode of “Law & Order: Trial by Jury” called “Skeleton.” He also guest starred in “Minding the Store” and appeared in episodes of “Arrested Development” (2006) and “The Wire” (2008, as John Munch). In 2008, Belzer received a People's Choice nomination in the category of Favorite Scene Stealing Star for his performance in “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”
In 2010, Belzer executive produced and costarred in “Santorini Blue,” a dramatic film directed by Matthew D. Panepinto and co-written by Panepinto and Deirdre Lorenz (both also starred in the film). He also played the supporting role of Hershel in “Polish Bar” (2010), opposite James Badge Dale, Judd Hirsch and Meat Loaf.