Richard Jay Belzer (born August 4, 1944) is an American stand-up comedian, author, and actor. He is perhaps best known for his role as John Munch, which he has portrayed as a regular cast member on the NBC police drama series Homicide: Life on the Street and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, as well as in a cameo appearance on the HBO series The Wire.
Belzer was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the son of Frances and Charles Belzer. His father was a candy and tobacco wholesaler. He grew up in a Romanian-Jewish family with his older brother, Leonard. As a youth, Belzer worked as a paperboy and at Modern Tobacco (his parents' business) part-time while attending high school. He was "kicked out of every school he attended." Nonetheless, Belzer graduated from Andrew Warde High School in the neighboring town of Fairfield, Connecticut. Both parents died while he was young; he was 18 when his mother died of cancer and 22 when his father committed suicide.
After high school, Belzer worked as a reporter for the Bridgeport Post. He attended Dean Junior College in Franklin, Massachusetts, for two semesters and part of a third before the school asked him to leave for leading too many student demonstrations. According to one interview, he was majoring in physical education. After leaving college, Belzer enlisted into the Army where he was kicked out for failure to adapt to military life. For a brief period, he studied and then later taught yoga. One of his earliest comedy routines included a character "Yogi Yogi, the Yodeler", a contestant in a yodeling contest.