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Richard Belzer

Born: August 4, 1944
Death: February 19, 2023
BlueMeter: Risqué

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1997 Another Lone Nut

Specials (and other video)

1997 Richard Belzer: Another Lone Nut
1996 Comic Relief's American Comedy Festival

Benefit show that features multiple comics.

1992 Belzer on Broadway
1992 The A-List
1990 Caroline's Comedy Hour
1986 The Young Comedians All-Star Reunion
1986 On Location: Richard Belzer in Concert
1983 Belzer Behind Bars

Books (by and about)

1999 UFOs, JFK, and Elvis: Conspiracies You Don't Have to Be Crazy to Believe
1988 How to Be a Stand-Up Comic


John Belushi once called him "The best I've ever seen working directly with an audience." People magazine reported, "As an 'insult' comic, Belzer is to Don Rickles what a buzz saw is to pinking shears. Fans of the "old Belzer"—circa 1981—recall a manic performer…who jumped into the audience knocking over tables to battle hecklers…he gained a cult following among some of the biggest names in comedy."

Despite years in the business, Belzer never seemed to become the big star many thought he'd be. He had plenty of chances, including his own cable TV show "Hot Properties." The main problem was that, unlike wiseguys from Chevy Chase to David Letterman, Belzer displayed little warmth and his cadaverous appearance, bad skin and greasy-slick black hair was hardly charming. His brand of cool was to use the word "babe" constantly and glower from behind tinted glasses.

Belzer's childhood in Bridgeport, Connecticut was less than pleasant. His mother's physical abuse of him led him to recall that "the kitchen in my house was the toughest room I ever worked."

Due to his "uncomfortable wit", Belzer has been asked to leave every school he ever attended.

Belzer's late teens weren't much better. College didn't work out. Neither did the Army. He got out of service after faking being beaten up while on guard duty. Caught in the lie he was released as "non adaptable to military service."

Worked at reporter for Bridgeport Post and other papers. Other former jobs: teacher, census-taker, jewelry salesman and dockworker.

His personal life was a shambles. His father commited suicide and Belzer suffered through two failed marriages. Fortunately, his use of heroin didn't work out either. Slowly his career as a comedian took shape.

In 1971 he auditioned for the underground TV show "The Groove Tube," and later appeared in the movie version. His reaction: "Absolutely terrified….I was always terrified of the notion of going into show business. Very afraid." An MC at "Catch a Rising Star" from 1972-78, the tough gig from 9pm to 3am helped him develop his steely nerve. Sharp observations and insults, delivered with barely concealed irritation and an icy, challenging sneer, made him a hero to other comics struggling in the poisonous atmosphere of a smoky club filled with indifferent or moronic drunks.

Some comics vaulted to the top. Belzer struggled, starring in a WNBC radio series called "Brink and Belzer," becoming a regular on "The Thicke of the Night" and finally getting on "The Tonight Show" in 1982. He starred in the six-part "Richard Belzer Show" for Cinemax cable, directed by David Steinberg and had his own talk show "Hot Properties" in 1985.

Married for the third time, raising two teenage daughters from a previous marriage, Belzer mellowed a bit in the late 80's, doing standard Ronald Reagan parody (an amusing mime of Reagan's grinning trot to a waiting helicopter, feigning an inability to hear reporters' questions). Another popular bit was his long routine imagining Bob Dylan at 80 singing "Like a Rolling Stone"—having somehow acquired the stereotypical gasping accent of an old Jewish man. Occasional the more wicked, more amusing Belzer would surface. His subtle take on the arrival of President Bush in 1988: "I can't believe it. George Bush just became president and his wife's already on the dollar bill."

Belzer balanced his night club work with occasional film roles. In 1988 he published "How To Be a Stand-Up Comic," a blend of National Lampoon-level comedy (photos of him in various silly guises peppered the book) and good advice: "There's only one sacred cow in the comedy business: Francis Albert Sinatra…Rule number one of the comedy business: Never, never, ever make fun of Frank."

Honored by the NY Friars Club during the Toyota Comedy Festival at the first roast that was ever open to the public. Among those on the dais: Roastmaster Paul Shaffer, Christopher Walken, Danny Aiello, Barry Levinson, Robert Klein and Bill Maher.

When not in New York working on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, he and his wife, actress Harlee McBridge, live in France.