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Dunkleman Questions Leaving 'Idol' Gig

2/22/2006 3:09 PM PST BY TMZ STAFF

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Brian Dunkleman admits it. He can't help but wonder if he might have been a mega-star on the rise, just like Ryan Seacrest, if he hadn't quit as co-host of "American Idol" after the hit reality show's first season.

"I wanted to be a performer, not someone who introduced other performers," Dunkleman told "Inside Edition" in an interview to be aired Wednesday. So he walked away from the hit reality show after its debut season in 2002.

Since then Seacrest has become practically a ubiquitous hosting presence, including sharing top billing with New Year's icon Dick Clark on this year's "New Year's Rockin' Eve" show.

Dunkleman has gone on to appear in a handful of TV shows like "NYPD Blue" and "Miss Match" and to appear regularly at Los Angeles comedy clubs.

"I do standup every week in LA at the Laugh Factory and the Improv," he said.

He also wonders about what might have been.

"It was my decision," he said. "I'm not saying it was a good decision because, obviously, with the success of the show, it's a difficult decision to think back on and think I did the right thing.

"I agonized over it, really," he continued, "but I quite honestly had a very difficult time with how cruel the show was. It really affected me."

With the show in its fifth season, Dunkleman is coming home in a way. He is hosting a new Internet fantasy game on the Web site http://www.idolgohome.com.

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