Friends, costars and producers are paying tribute to Richard Belzer, following news of the actor’s death on Sunday at age 78.
Belzer was best known for his role as Detective Munch on Homicide: Life on the Street from 1993 to 1999, before moving to Law & Order: SVU from 1999 to 2016. Belzer played this character for nearly 25 years.
Actress Mariska Hargitay, who stars in SVU as Detective Olivia Benson, mourned the loss of her costar on Instagram. She wrote, “I will miss you, your unique light, and your singular take on this strange world.” She said she feels blessed to have known, “adored” and worked with Belzer for so many years.
Law & Order creator Dick Wolf told our sister site Variety that “Richard Belzer’s Detective John Munch is one of television’s iconic characters.”
Wolf added: “I first worked with Richard on the Law & Order/Homicide crossover and loved the character so much, I told Tom (Fontana) that I wanted to make him one of the original characters on SVU. The rest is history.”
Former costar Christopher Meloni, who played Detective Elliot Stabler opposite Belzer in SVU, took to twitter. He wrote “Good bye mon ami. I love you,” and included a photo of himself kissing Belzer on the cheek.
NBC and Universal Television released the following statement shortly after news of Belzer’s passing broke: “Anyone who ever had the pleasure of watching Richard Belzer portray Det. John Munch — whether on Homicide or Law & Order: SVU – over four decades will never forget how much he inhabited that beloved character to make it his own. His professionalism, talents and dedication to the craft made him a pillar in the industry, but it was his humor, compassion and loving heart that made him family. Our condolences go out to his loved ones as we join them in mourning his loss, but also in celebrating his memory.”
SVU executive producer Warren Leight also remembered the actor on Twitter, writing “Richard Belzer was the first actor to welcome me when I started at SVU. Open, warm, acerbic, whip smart, surprisingly kind. I loved writing for Munch, and I loved being with Belz.”
Before his rise to popularity on television, Belzer was a stand-up comedian. Fellow comedians are paying tribute as they learn the news of his death.
Comedian and former host of The Daily Show Jon Stewart tweeted, “Rest in Peace Belz. No better time than sitting in the back at Catch watching Richard wreck crowd after crowd…a master.”
“I’m so sad to hear of Richard Belzer’s passing,” actress and comedian Laraine Newman tweeted. I loved this guy so much. He was one of my first friends when I got to New York to do SNL. We used to go out to dinner every week at Sheepshead Bay for lobster. One of the funniest people ever. A master at crowd work. RIP dearest.”
Comedian Marc Maron called Belzer an “original” and “one of the greats” in a tweet expressing his condolences.