Late Richard Belzer honored by 'SVU' co-stars Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni
Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni, the lead actors of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," have shared heartfelt statements on social media honoring their late co-star Richard Belzer, who died early Sunday at 78.
Belzer — who played wisecracking detective John Munch on "SVU," “Homicide: Life on the Street” and numerous other TV series — reportedly died at his home in Bozouls, France, comedy writer Bill Scheft confirmed to the Hollywood Reporter.
"Goodbye my dear, dear friend," wrote Hargitay, who portrays detective Olivia Benson in the "Law & Order" franchise.
"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. How lucky the angels are to have you. I can hear them laughing already. I love you so very much, now and forever."
On Twitter, Meloni posted a photo of himself kissing Belzer on the cheek and wrote, "Good bye mon ami. I love you. #TheBelz." Meloni, who plays detective Elliot Stabler in "SVU," also shared a behind-the-scenes picture of Hargitay and Belzer goofing around on the set of "SVU."
Hargitay and Meloni were among several members of the "Law & Order" family who paid tribute to Belzer on Sunday. Prolific TV producer Dick Wolf, who created "SVU," remembered Belzer as a "consummate professional" who "brought humor and joy into all our lives."
"Richard Belzer's Detective John Munch is one of television's iconic characters," Wolf wrote in a statement shared on Instagram.
"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. ... We will all miss him very much."
Ice-T and Marlee Matlin, who played detective Odafin Tutuola and doctor Amy Solwey, respectively, on "SVU," both paid homage to Belzer on Twitter.
"Highs and Lows… After one of the most amazing weeks of my life. I wake up to the news I lost my friend today," Ice-T tweeted. "Belz is gone.. Damn it! But remember this..’When you ARE having real fun and are Truly Happy. ENJOY it to the fullest! Cause Pain is inevitably coming.’ I’ll miss you Homie."
"Richard Belzer was one of the most kindest and welcoming actors when I guested on two episodes of Law and Order: SVU," Matlin tweeted. "His passing is truly a loss for Hollywood and I will miss him dearly. RIP Richard Belzer."
In another tweet, former "SVU" showrunner Warren Leight deemed Belzer "open, warm, acerbic, whip smart" and "surprisingly kind." Leight also shared a clip from Belzer's last "SVU" episode, in which a retired Munch babysits Benson's son.
"Richard Belzer was the first actor to welcome me when I started at SVU," Leight wrote. "I loved writing for Munch, and I loved being with Belz. We sensed this would be his parting scene. Godspeed Belz…"
In a statement provided Sunday to The Times, NBC and Universal Television said, "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.”
Plenty of other Hollywood figures outside of the "SVU" universe mourned Belzer's death on social media. Among the first to react to the news on Sunday were comedians Billy Crystal, Patton Oswalt, Loni Love and Marc Marron, as well as actors Natasha Lyonne and Vincent D'Onofrio.
"Richard Belzer was simply hilarious," Crystal tweeted. "A genius at handling a crowd. So sad he’s passed away."
"25 years ago I wanted to be a stand up comic so this was the first book I read," Love tweeted along with an image of Belzer's 1988 book, "How to Be a Stand-Up Comic." "Thank you for changing my life Richard Belzer… my comedy brother. Rest in peace and make God laugh."
"Richard Belzer was always so kind to me," D'Onofrio tweeted. "We met at comedy club he was performing in ... I was young with only one film into my career. He always remembered me. I had the pleasure of hang'n with him a couple of times. Sweet sweet man & funny as hell. He will be missed."
Before landing his breakout role on "Homicide," Belzer was a stand-up comedian who served as a warm-up act for "Saturday Night Live." Original "SNL" cast member Laraine Newman fondly remembered Belzer as "a master at crowd" and "one of the funniest people ever."
"I'm so sad to hear of Richard Belzer's passing," 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. ... RIP dearest."
See more tributes to Belzer below.
Missing Richard Belzer today. Working with him on Homicide to SVU has been a hilarious, surprising and always joyful experience. I'm sure he's giving 'em all a lot of laughs upstairs. 💔💔
— Julie Martin (@JulieMartinNY) February 19, 2023
So saddened to learn that the fabulous Richard Belzer passed away.Loved working with him for 11 years on SVU. Favorite moments: w Marlee Matlin, Carol Kane, Stephanie March (TaySachs episode) and of course the great Ice-T. Rest in peace, Munch.Your comic genius will last always.
— NealBaer🏳️🌈 (@NealBaer) February 19, 2023
Aw goddamit, RIP Richard Belzer. I just always thought he’d be around ‘cause it seemed like he always was. A true original. #TheBelzBabe
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) February 19, 2023
Richard Belzer died. He was an original. One of the greats, babe. I loved the guy. RIP
— marc maron (@marcmaron) February 19, 2023
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.