ELLEN DEGENERES is on the hunt for a “mini-me” to take over some of her responsibilities so she can spend more time with her long-suffering wife Portia.

Taking a page from Jay Leno – who’s always been a big supporter of suc­cessful talk-show host Chelsea Handler – Ellen is searching for a “little Ellen” that she can mold into the country’s next great comedic talent, sources tell The ENQUIRER.

“ELLEN HAS SEEN how Jay nurtured Chelsea’s career over the years and now has someone in his pocket who will be the perfect successor,” said a friend. “Ellen has always been super-closed and protective of her comedic methods, but she’s realizing that forging an alliance is a clever move.”

While fans can rest assured that Ellen has no plans to retire anytime soon, the 54-year-old Emmy winner is desperate to mend her relationship with Portia, whom she wed in 2008. As The ENQUIRER reported in mid-December, the marriage has been struggling under the weight of Ellen’s busy career.

But “Ellen and Portia adore each oth­er,” maintained another insider, “and they’re not going to give up on their marriage without a fight. Taking on the role of mentor will defi­nitely improve matters at home, because Portia knows that in the long run it will free Ellen up to spend more time with her.”

Ellen’s team has found a few prospects at L.A. comedy clubs, including up-and-comers Susan McIntosh, Jillian Bell and Cristela Alonzo.

“Ellen loves the idea of taking a struggling artist and changing her life,” added the friend. “But she also loves the idea of letting this woman take over for her occasionally, so she can focus more on Portia.”