Charlie Pickering, Carrie Bickmore and Peter Helliar. Picture: Supplied

Replacing good mate Dave Hughes on Network Ten's panel show The Project was an easy decision for much-loved comedian Peter Helliar.

The actor/writer/comic across film and television has been a big fan of the prime-time show that blends news with comedy since its inception in 2009, and regularly filled in for his fellow funnyman "Hughesy" last year.

Now Helliar will join hosts Charlie Pickering and Carrie Bickmore, with Hughes returning to his first love - stand-up comedy - starting with a national tour from next month.

"The Project is always on our telly at home around dinner time and I've often found myself laughing, learning something new, being inspired or trying to hold back a tear," said Helliar, whose alter ego is Collingwood football tragic "Strauchanie".

"I think filling in for Hughesy on The Project last year got my interest really high and made me realise I could do it and be reasonably good at it," he said.

"The vibe from the network, the people on the show and people on the street about me doing it was all very positive. I thought 'OK, this feels good, this feels right'."

Indeed, Helliar seems the perfect replacement for Hughes who made the tough decision in early December to leave the show he helped build.

"I've been banging on about doing a proper national stand-up tour for years and if I don't do it now before my kids start school, I never will," Hughes said about his return to stand-up comedy. "Good luck to Pete, even though he won't need it, he has always been fantastic on the show."

Leaving The Project, however, could not have come at a worse time for Hughes or a better time for Helliar. The pair were on Ten's long-standing AFL show Before The Game, which was axed just days after Hughes signed-off on The Project. Both shows come from Rove McManus' production house Roving Enterprises.

While Helliar jokingly offered Hughesy his old job back, he said that getting his mate's blessing made his decision to join The Project a cinch.

"I've been good mates with Hughesy for 20 years and knew he was considering a few things like getting back to stand-up comedy on a bigger level than he's been able to do. There was a bit of sounding out about whether I'd be keen to take his seat but I was never confident he would leave completely and I was surprised when he did. So while there were a few considerations for me, it was a pretty easy call in the end."

Those considerations included Helliar's family and the second season of his ABC show, It's a Date.

"I had to chat to my wife and make sure she was okay with me not being around the dinner table or taking the kids to karate or footy during the year, and she was very supportive," he said. "I'll still get to take the kids to school and be home in time to give them a kiss goodnight. So I'm there at the bookends of the day."

With The Project taking up four nights a week, Helliar will take a lighter role on It's a Date, which he created and wrote.

"Both shows will keep me on my toes, but It's a Date is all written for 2014 and there won't be a huge re-launch of The Project or anything. I'll slowly build my way into it and hopefully bring new things. Nothing too serious, obviously."

While Hughesy will continue to pop up with weekly reports from the comedy road, Helliar will officially join the show from Monday.

The West Australian

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