The Next Johnny Carson?

CAROUSEL - 27-year-old Aubrey Opdyke spent five weeks in a drug-induced coma, suffering collapsed lungs, kidney failure and seizures after contracting the H1N1 virus while pregnant. Pregnancy suppresses the immune system, putting pregnant women at especially high risk from the virus. CBS

Michael Essany is not your regular late-night television host – at least, not yet. He hosts a TV talk show from his parent's living room.

"My mom controls [two camera] from her one-button director's chair," says Essany. "She's the director."

She also handles hair, make-up and wardrobe.

Essany tapes his shows whenever his guest shows up. And, on this day, CBS News Sunday Morning's Bill Geist is his guest.

The half-hour weekly show appears on public access channels. In three years, it has grown from being available in 24,000 to 200,000 homes.

Essany performs the traditional talk-show monologue. And his delivery may seem familiar because he studies the master of talk, Johnny Carson.
Like Carson, Essany does sketches, featuring his dad, Ernie, and his Uncle Rocky.

Essany even has his own Ed McMahon, his buddy Mike Randazzo. "I was like: 'OK, who are you going get to be on the show? I mean you don't know anybody,'" says Essany.

But he gets surprisingly good guests, such as Carrot Top and Jeff Foxworthy. Essany interviews others, such as Ray Romano and Mario Cuomo, by phone from his studio B, the dining room.

And what did they think of this talk show savant?

"This guy is fresh, he's young, he's new, he's bright and it's a pleasure," says former New York Gov.Cuomo. "He invigorates you with his questions. We're going to hear from this kid."

Essany says it wasn't easy getting guests to speak on the phone; much less appear on the show.

"I've written to 1,000 individual celebrities and I've been turned down by more than 900. So, I hear 'no' a lot," says Essany. "In my letters, I would tell them how this is the most unique show on television and how you have to check it out while you can still get on."

A little over a year ago, the Essany household anxiously prepared for the biggest star yet to visit.

Essany offered to have breakfast ready, only to find his prized guest liked mangos.

"I don't know what a mango is," said Essany. While Ernie hunted for mangos, Essany scurried about making final preparations.

"I write the show, I produce the material, I edit film, host, book the guest … It's a full time job," said Essany. "[It's} time consuming, life consuming, but I love it."

Ernie's hunt was fruitful as he returned with two lovely mangos. And finally the studio was ready.

"It's always hard to believe a star is coming to the house," said a 19-year-old Essany. "It's always hard to believe."

The star aren't expected until the middle of the night, when the tour bus rolls through Valparaiso, Ind., between gigs.

Tension mounted because maybe they won't show. Then suddenly, like a space ship landing in a cornfield, bus lights appear in the darkness — just as Essany said they would.

And the celebrities who stepped out of the bus were actor/musician Kevin Bacon and his brother Michael. They were just awakened and had not been to make-up, hair or wardrobe.

And the show began.

"In 1994, my guests formed a band that has since become one of the most popular bands in music today," started out Essany. "Are you guys here because you're truly nice guys or because you're so tired you have no idea where you are?"

"We're here because you are one of the most persistent people we have heard about and met and seen in our lives. And unique," laughed Kevon Bacon.

Essany was thrilled. And what do the talk show veterans think of him?

"Actually, when we plopped down here it was no different from other talk shows. Very professional," said Michael Bacon. "Better," countered Kevin. "He's up there with the big boys. I got to say, they need to look out 'cause their jobs are in jeopardy."

Which is exactly what Essany is thinking.

Since CBS News' Bill Geist first visited Essany, he hasn't quite taken Jay Leno's job, yet. But he was a guest on his show.

"They'd been turning me down years and years and years, completely overlooking my story," says Essany. "But I hung in there and finally they called after they saw my spot on CBS Sunday Morning with Kevin Bacon's appearance and they called and said we gotta have you on."

That was a huge moment in Michael's life. So huge, he had his braces removed for the occasion.

"I don't think most people get to use that excuse for having braces off: 'I'm doing the 'Tonight Show,' these things have got to come off.'"
His own talk show is still going strong in his parent's living room. A recent guest was Frederique, the supermodel.

And stay tuned because on Sundays, 10:30 p.m. ET, the entire nation can watch Essany on a new reality show on E!

"We're looking forward to changing E! from standing for entertainment to Essany," laughs Essany.
  • Rome Neal

Comments

Follow Us

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Watch Now

On Twitter