Richard Belzer: John Munch Retiring From ‘Law & Order,’ But Not Leaving For Good

Richard Belzer has been on Law & Order: SVU since it started 15 years ago, and now his character is ready to turn it in.

Detective John Munch submitted his retirement papers at the end of Wednesday’s episode, setting up for a retirement party in the October 16 episode.

Though he’s gone as a series regular, sources close to the show say that Richard Belzer isn’t gone for good. He will reportedly be back for guest appearances on the show.

“I’d be a fool to say I didn’t want to do it anymore and I’m certainly not bored with the character because the writing is so good,” Belzer told The Huffington Post in May 2013. “[Munch is] very close to how I would be if I were in that situation, so it’s a dream.”

As John Munch leaves the Special Victims Unit, a television empire goes with him. Belzer’s character first appeared on Homicide: Life on the Street in 1993 as a detective in Baltimore’s homicide unit. From there the character made appearances in a number of programs, including The X-Files, The Beat, The Wire, and even Sesame Street.

With his combined work as Detective John Munch, Richard Belzer has 21 seasons in television. That makes his character the longest-serving in television history, beating out Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammar) and Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness).

Richard Belzer himself has a long and varied career. A standup comedian, Belzer broke into acting in the early 1970s. In 1975 he joined Saturday Night Live as the warm-up comedian, and made guest appearances over the next three years.