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Telethon, without Lewis, cut to 6 hours

Comedian Jerry Lewis' conspicuous absence will not be the only change at the Muscular Dystrophy Association's telethon this Labor Day weekend.

The Tucson, Ariz.-based organization is making major changes to the telethon, slashing it to six hours of prime-time television from a nearly 22-hour show in an effort to boost audience numbers, raise more money, and make sponsors and celebrities happy.

The association announced many of the changes Thursday as it moves on from a 45-year partnership with Lewis.

Lewis, 85, and the association still haven't said why they've parted ways, but the move doesn't appear to be hindering the group's plans for the Sept. 4, telethon.

"While we deeply appreciate everything that Jerry Lewis has done and his enduring legacy for MDA, our show will go on," MDA spokesman Jim Brown told the Associated Press from Tucson. "It's really not in the best interest of MDA to discuss publicly details about what Jerry appears to agree with or didn't disagree with."

MDA announced earlier this month that Lewis no longer was its national chairman and wouldn't be on this year's telethon. When pressed by a reporter at the time about his role with the telethon, Lewis said: "It's none of your business."

Lewis later said he would hold a news conference the day after the telethon to clarify his plans.

"I will have plenty to say about what I think is important. And that's the future, not the past," he said.

Since 1966, the telethon, with Lewis at the helm, has lasted 21 1/2 hours and has raised more than $1.6 billion.

Now the telethon will begin at 6 p.m. and end at midnight in all time zones. The show, being taped in Las Vegas, will air live only on the East Coast.

Everyone else in the country will watch the telethon delayed, with two eight-minute segments airing live every hour, Brown said.

Brown said.

Celebrities that the association said will appear on the show include Celine Dion, Jennifer Lopez, Lady Antebellum, Richie Sambora and Jordan Sparks.