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‘Uncontrollable Wit’

An interview with Law and Order’s Richard Belzer

Q: You were also briefly in the military. You left that early, too.

A: I was discharged under honorable conditions for being too funny to carry a gun.

Q: That seems improbable.

A: They asked me politely to leave. Under honorable conditions.

Q: How long were you in?

A: About seven or eight months.

Q: Was there anything positive you took from the experience?

A: Yes. I met a lot of people I never would have [otherwise] met from different parts of the country. I had top secret clearance. I was trained as a radio intercept operator.

Q: What exactly is that?

A: Monitoring enemy codes.

Q: I would think that’s fascinating.

A: Sitting with headsets all day? It sounds more romantic than it is.

Q: I know you used to play a lot of basketball. Do you still?

A: I do. I had a court built at my house in France.

Q: How often do you play?

A: Every day, weather permitting.

Q: Do you find enough people to play with?

A: I play by myself. One of my dogs gets rebounds, hits the ball back to me.

Q: How are your knees holding up at 66?

A: I don’t play against anyone. I just shoot around all day. If you stay active, the knees stay well-oiled.

Q: What do you find are the keys to feeling younger than you are?

A: I think keeping the mind, as well as the body, active. Learning new things has been proven to actually build new brain cells — to take up something you didn’t know before, not a permutation of something you already know. And, of course, daily, if possible, physical activity. Exercise is the fountain of youth, I believe.

Q: So what are some of the new things you’ve learned lately?

A: I’m studying ancient history — Roman history.

Q: How did you become interested in that?

A: Living in Europe. I’ve always been fascinated by antiquities, and everywhere you go the Romans have left their mark, architecturally or in other ways. So I’ve always been fascinated by the Romans and the Caesars. There are remnants of Roman conquests everywhere — bridges and walls and all kinds of things have been affected by them for 2,000 years. I find it fascinating.


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