'Law & Order: SVU': How Richard Belzer Was Referenced in Special Fin Episode Before His Death

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit included a special mention of Richard Belzer's John Munch in Thursday's episode, "Dutch Tears." By coincidence, the episode aired days before Belzer's death was reported Sunday morning. "Dutch Tears" was a memorable hour focused on Ice-T's Lt. Odafin Tutuola, who was paired more often with Munch than any other detective.

Partway through the episode, Fin asked Det. Terry Bruno (Kevin Kane) if he had second thoughts about moving from the Bronx to Manhattan SVU. Bruno said he had no regrets, with the dry humor the character has shown since his introduction earlier this season. Fin saw through that, noting it was his "armor" when a difficult case presented itself. This reminded Fin of Munch, who also used humor as a defense mechanism. Fin then provided an update on Munch. "The last I heard, he moved back to Baltimore... met a divorced female rabbi," Fin said. Munch bought back his old cop bar. "That skinny bastard had a punchline for every second of the day," Fin joked.

"Sounds like you miss him," Bruno said. "I'm not into nostalgia. I mean, that stuff's heavy, brings you down," Fin said. Bruno was "flattered" to be compared to Munch.

Fin's comments were peppered with references to Munch's past. The character debuted in the Baltimore-set Homicide: Life on the Street. During that series, he co-owned The Waterfront Bar, the "old cop bar" Fin mentioned. After Homicide ended in 1999, the character jumped from ABC to NBC to star in Law & Order: SVU. He was a series regular for the first 15 seasons, but made occasional guest appearances until the Season 17 episode "Fashionable Crimes." Belzer also played Munch in episodes of The X-Files, The Beat, Law & Order, Law & Order: Trial by Jury, Arrested Development, The Wire, 30 Rock, Sesame Street, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Belzer retired from acting in 2016 at age 71.

Original Saturday Night Live cast member Laraine Newman announced Belzer's death. No cause of death has been reported. He was 78.

Belzer was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and began his career as a stand-up comedian. He was an audience warm-up comedian for SNL during its first five seasons and made a handful of on-camera appearances. Outside of his appearances as Munch, Belzer starred in the movies Fame, Night Shift, Scarface, The Big Picture, North, A Very Brady Sequel, and Species II. Belzer is survived by his third wife, Harlee McBride, and their two daughters, Bree and Jessica.

New episodes of Law & Order: SVU air on NBC Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET. Law & Order airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET, while Law & Order: Organized Crime airs at 10 p.m. ET. All three shows are streaming on Peacock.