Munch on this

Richard Belzer says he was too interested in girls in 1963 to really think much of President John F. Kennedy's assassination at the time. Now, of course, he believes that the murder in Dealey Plaza was a conspiracy, and that J.F.K. himself was part of the plan to hide proof of the existence of UFOs. It has even been reported, he says, that Kennedy told Marilyn Monroe he was going to see a space ship and that the doctors who treated the defunct prez after the assassination examined two different brains.

Belzer may sound like any other loon standing around Dealey Plaza spouting theories to any tourist who'll listen, but he just may be conspiracy theorists' one hope to make their ravings seem more credible. The reason: Belzer's a veteran stand-up comic and, more important, a prime-time television actor. Also known as that creepy guy from NBC's now-canceled Homicide: Life on the Street, Belzer has been spouting conspiracies for years, dating back to his days as one of Andy Kaufman's contemporaries to his character John Munch to his brand-new book UFOs, JFK, and Elvis: Conspiracies You Don't Have to Be Crazy to Believe. In the process, he has used humor to make the theories more accessible and said plenty of things that can't be easily dismissed as crazy. He's smart enough to poke fun at himself in the process: His conspiracy-theory ravings became a running gag on Homicide.

He takes the criticism and defends his beliefs, insisting that "the conspiracy question is the question of the millennium, because the very fact that it is being asked means that people have learned they cannot trust what the government has told them."

Belzer even has a theory on how to evaluate whether something is a believable conspiracy or not. First, the person who has been murdered must be against the status quo. Next, the other people involved either change their stories or start disappearing. Finally, the media help protect the bad guys. Here's a fun party game: Try this with other favorite murdered public figures. Martin Luther King, Mahatma Ghandi, Abraham Lincoln, Gianni Versace. C'mon, there's gotta be something there.

Belzer doesn't believe conspiracies just belong in history. He also believes that NASA continues to send things into space that the government doesn't talk about and that medical experiments are secretly performed on the population. Sound like an episode of The X-Files? Well, Belzer as Munch has done that too, making television history by appearing with Mulder and Scully, his Homicide squad mates, and the cast of Law & Order as the same character within one week.

And, of course, Belzer has his own millennium theory, which, surprisingly, does not involve aliens disguised as world leaders taking over the planet with mind control via television and cell phones on New Year's Eve. Not hardly. He just can't wait to find out how people are going to exploit the world's collective paranoia. He'll be watching it all unfold on satellite from his home in a little French village.

--Shannon Sutlief

Richard Belzer will hold a press conference, then sign and read from his book UFOs, JFK, and Elvis: Conspiracies You Don't Have to Be Crazy to Believe, 12:30 p.m.-2 p.m. June 10 at The Conspiracy Museum, 110 S. Market. (214) 741-3040. At 7 p.m. June 10, Belzer will sign books at the Borders Books and Music Preston Royal, 10720 Preston Road. (214) 363-1977.