Fresh Prince of Talk
updated 04/02/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 04/02/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT
Essany shrugs. "I call this boot camp," he says of doing his weekly show, which reaches 175,000 homes in Indiana and Illinois and since its inception in 1998 has reeled in—by phone or in person—celebs as diverse as Ray Romano, Jenny McCarthy, Jim Nabors, Ed McMahon, Alex Trebek and Deborah Norville. "Because I'm getting all this experience here on a local level...which will help me when I get The Tonight Show. And I ant going to host The Tonight Show."
Though Essany sounds eerily like Rupert Pupkin, the obsessed talk show fan played by Robert De Niro in 1983's The King of Comedy, "he has got his head on straight," says his mom. Guest Jeff Foxworthy calls him "probably the most prepared host I've ever met." Which may explain why, he says, "I don't date much." Still, he plans to keep doing the show while attending Valparaiso University this fall. At the top of his guest wish list: Jay Leno. Look out, Jay. "When his time is through," says Essany, "that desk is mine."