Leonard Belzer (Actor)
Known for his biting humor, Belzer was a regular at Pips, the Improv and Catch a Rising Star. He was part of the Channel One comedy troupe that satirized television and helped make the 1974 cult film The Groove Tube.
He was also a self-proclaimed conspiracy theorist and survived testicular cancer in 1983, which he discussed in his stand-up special Another Lone Nut. He died at home on Feb. 19 of unspecified respiratory and circulatory complications.
Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut
Belzer started his comedy career in the 1970s, performing at New York City clubs such as Pips, The Improv and Catch a Rising Star. He then landed a role in Channel One’s comedy group. He went on to star in the national Lampoon Radio Hour and was also part of the off-Broadway show ‘National Lampoon Live!’
In the 1980s, he became famous for his biting cynical humor and survived testicular cancer. He was also a popular performer on the Friars Club roasts.
He began his long stint as Detective Munch on Homicide: Life on the Street in 1993 and continued on Law & Order: SVU from 1999 to 2016. He also starred in several TV shows, including 30 Rock, The X-Files, and Arrested Development.
Educated at Columbia University
Before his acting career took off, Belzer worked as a teacher, census-taker, jeweler, dockworker and a TV news reporter. He also performed stand-up comedy at clubs like Pips, The Improv and Catch a Rising Star.
He also appeared in a number of movies including ‘Fame’, ‘Scarface’ and ‘Cafe Flesh’. He also had bit parts on television shows such as ‘Everything Goes’ and ‘Night Shift’.
The older brother of actor Richard Belzer, Leonard Belzer jumped to his death Wednesday morning from his Upper West Side apartment building. He was 73-years-old. He left multiple suicide notes, according to law enforcement officials. He was a former host of the radio program The Comedy Hour and a veteran of the Air Force Intelligence Service.
Moved to New York City in 1972
Belzer began his career as a stand-up comedian, performing with the likes of John Belushi and Gilda Radner. He was a regular performer on the National Lampoon Radio Hour and later became an opening act for Saturday Night Live.
He also appeared in a number of films, including The Bonfire of the Vanities and Man on the Moon. He had recurring roles on TV shows such as Homicide Life on the Street and the original Law and Order before he landed his most famous role in Law and Order: SVU.
He also wrote several books and was involved in charity work, including animal rights and mental health awareness. He was a vegetarian and suffered from testicular cancer.
Made his screen debut in The Groove Tube
After performing at New York City comedy clubs such as Pips, the Improv, and Catch a Rising Star, Belzer landed roles in TV satires, including Channel One’s TV Dealers and the 1974 film The Groove Tube. He also appeared in the national Lampoon Radio Hour and was a regular on the off-Broadway show Brink and Belzer.
In 2001, he was the subject of the first-ever public roast at the New York Friars Club and Toyota Comedy Festival. Paul Shaffer, Christopher Walken, Danny Aiello, Barry Levinson, and Bill Maher were among the comedians and friends who took part.
Belzer became a popular TV personality, playing Detective John Munch in numerous shows, including 30 Rock and Law and Order SVU. He also voiced Loogie for the majority of an episode of South Park and co-starred with Brian Doyle-Murray on Sesame Street.
Became a self-proclaimed conspiracy theorist
Belzer’s appearances on The Howard Stern Show helped land him the role of Detective John Munch in ‘Homicide: Life on the Street’ and later, ‘Law & Order’. He also appeared in several other TV shows and movies, including the comedy special ‘Another Lone Nut’ in 1997.
After surviving testicular cancer, Belzer became interested in tall tales and began writing books on the subject. His 1999 debut, UFOs, JFK, and Elvis: Conspiracies You Don’t Have to Be Crazy to Believe, and its follow-up Hit List both made the New York Times best seller list.
Died at the age of 73
Belzer began his comedy career as a stand-up in New York City at Pips, The Improv, and Catch a Rising Star. He also appeared on the National Lampoon Radio Hour with Chevy Chase, John Belushi, and Bill Murray. He was a warm-up comedian on Saturday Night Live and appeared in several movies.
He is best known for his role as Detective John Munch in the NBC police dramas Homicide: Life on the Street and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. He portrayed the character for 22 consecutive seasons, breaking the record held by James Arness on Gunsmoke and Kelsey Grammer on Cheers and Frasier.
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