‘Law & Order: SVU’ star Richard Belzer dead at 78

Richard Belzer, the Connecticut-born comedian who starred as Detective John Munch on the police-drama series “Homicide” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” for more than two decades, died Sunday at age 78, a friend said.

A cause of death was not released for the actor, who died at his home in France, comedy writer Bill Scheft told the Hollywood Reporter.

“He had lots of health issues, and his last words were, ‘F--- you, motherf---er,’” Scheft said of Belzer, who is survived by wife Harlee McBride.

Originally from Bridgeport, Belzer broke into the entertainment industry as a stand-up comedian in New York and served as a warm-up act for “Saturday Night Live.” He appeared in nearly 80 movie and TV roles during a career spanning more than four decades, beginning with the comedy film “The Groove Tube” in 1974.

Belzer debuted as the sarcastic Munch on NBC’s “Homicide: Life on the Street” in 1993, playing a detective for the Baltimore Police Department on all seven of the show’s seasons.

He migrated the character to “Law & Order: SVU” in 1999, playing an NYPD detective and sergeant during a 15-year run.

“When ‘Homicide’ was canceled, I was in France with my wife and she said, ‘Let’s open a bottle of champagne and toast: You did this character for seven years,’” Belzer shared for “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Unofficial Companion,” a 2009 book by Susan Green and Randee Dawn.

“And then I remembered that Benjamin Bratt was leaving L&O, and so I called my manager and said, ‘Call [show creator] Dick Wolf — maybe Munch can become [Det. Lennie] Briscoe’s partner’ — because we had teamed for the crossover.”

Wolf had already cast Jesse Martin for the original “Law & Order” but enlisted Belzer for its first spinoff, “SVU,” also starring Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni.

Belzer appeared on more than 300 episodes before his character retired from the special victims unit during the show’s 15th season. He later guest-starred on a Season 17 episode.

Belzer appeared as Munch on numerous other popular shows as well, including “Arrested Development,” “The Wire” and “30 Rock.”

“I never asked anyone to be on their show,” Belzer told the Comic’s Comic in 2008. “So it’s doubly flattering to me to see me depicted in a script and that I’m so recognizable and lovable as the sarcastic detective and smart-ass. Much to my delight, because he is a great character for me to play, it’s fun for me. So I’m not upset about being typecast at all.”

Hargitay was among the “SVU” stars who paid tribute after Belzer’s death.

“Goodbye my dear, dear friend,” she said in an Instagram statement. “I will miss you, your unique light, and your singular take on this strange world. I feel blessed to have known you and adored you and worked with you, side by side, for so many years.”

Meloni tweeted a photo showing him kissing Belzer on the cheek.

“Good bye mon ami,” Meloni wrote. “I love you.”