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Richard Belzer, Detective Munch on ‘Law & Order:

 A stand-up comic, he called his hard-boiled character on the long-running TV drama “Lenny Bruce with a badge.”

       Richard Belzer, who became one of American television’s most enduring police detectives as John Munch on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and several other shows, died on Sunday at his home in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, France. He was 78.The death was confirmed by Bill Scheft, a friend of Mr. Belzer. Mr. Scheft, who has been working on a documentary about Mr. Belzer’s life and career, said that the actor had suffered from circulatory and respiratory issues for years.As Detective Munch, Mr. Belzer wasbrainy but hard-boiled, cynical but sensitive. He wore sunglasses at night and listened to the horror stories of rape victims in stony silence. He was the kind of cop who made casual references to Friedrich Nietzsche and the novelist Elmore Leonard. He spoke in quips; when accused of being a dirty old man, he responded: “Who are you calling old?”In a 2010 interview with AARP The Magazine, Mr. Belzer — who was a stand-up comic when he was not playing Munch — described his television alter ego as “Lenny Bruce with a badge.”With Munch, Mr. Belzer found phenomenal success. In 2013, when the character was written out of “SVU” — as the “Law & Order” spinoff is often called — Mr. Belzer wrote in The Huffington Post that he had appeared as Munch in more than 500 hours of programming on 10 different shows.The character’s run began in 1993, on “Homicide: Life on the Street,” and included guest appearances on “Sesame Street” and “30 Rock.”