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Rick Mercer, star of the hit CBC-TV comedy This Hour Has 22 Minutes, is quitting the show to concentrate on other projects, the CBC said yesterday.

Among other things, Mr. Mercer will continue to work on Made in Canada, CBC's TV-industry satire program, said George Anthony, the network's head of arts, music and science.

Mr. Mercer has been with 22 Minutes since the series began eight years ago.

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"The past eight years on 22 have been a news junkie's dream," Mr. Mercer said in a news release. "I loved every minute of it, but it's time for a change."

Salter Street, the Halifax company that produces 22 Minutes, will be looking for a replacement to join Mary Walsh, Cathy Jones and Greg Thomey for the fall season. "I hope that whoever replaces me will have all the success in the world.

"I've heard the rumour -- it looks like it will be [Finance Minister Paul]Martin, although I wouldn't count [Industry Minister Brian]Tobin out yet. He's a dark horse, but if he works on his French, who knows what will happen?"

With all of Mr. Mercer's other interests, his departure from the show didn't come as much of a surprise to the CBC. "We're sorry that Rick is leaving the show . . . but it's not really a shock to us," Mr. Anthony said. "They all have these other careers."

In the fall, 22 Minutes moves from its traditional Monday-night time slot to Fridays at 8 p.m. local time, to be followed at 8:30 p.m. by Made in Canada.

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