He’s the REAL Deal


February 3, 2021

Words by: Heidi Johannson

Photography by: Tatyana Semenova

No other podcast is trending harder than #RealTalkRJ according to

Edmonton media personality, Ryan Jespersen, has been digging into what matters to his listeners for over 15 years with a career that was self directed until an abrupt transition thrust him out of traditional mainstream radio. Not one to back down from a challenge or a microphone, this scorched path became an opportunity for new growth and a fresh podcast. Real Talk tackles news, politics, sports and pop culture, and true to form, Jespersen has already made it into one of Canada’s most listened-to, most subscribed-to, daily current affairs’ shows.

Did you always know that a career in broadcast media was the one for you?

As an 11 year old, I had a chance encounter with Canadian broadcast journalist, Peter Jennings. My Dad pointed him out while we were in line for popcorn at a hockey game when Calgary hosted the Olympics. We had a short conversation, but from then on I watched World News Tonight. He instilled an awareness of the art of storytelling and an appreciation for journalism.

Can you name some of the mentors you’ve had along the way?

Absolutely! I’ve had many! A good example is Charles Adler. I refer to him as the Titan of Talk. He’s arguably the greatest talk host in Canadian history. We have a special relationship to this day. Gene Principe with Sportsnet is always available to offer sage advice, and Bryan Hall. With a 65 year career in broadcasting, he’s so sharp. Bryan’s accomplishments and the way he is known and respected, even at times reviled by his audience…it’s incredible!

How would you describe your style of broadcast and your listener?

I approach all commentary the same. I always keep in mind that there will be people who want us to get in the weeds a little bit. The unique stones that haven’t been overturned, The storylines that people aren’t covering. Our audiences are savvy and educated so I always want conversations to be interesting, concerning, relevant and relatable.

What has been the best advice that you’ve received to keep with you in your back pocket?

Hallsy and I were sipping martinis in his condo. It’s a beautiful condo that looks south over the river valley. He said, “Well kid, you gotta make sure that they love you or hate you.” If anyone understood that back in the day of landline, call-in radio shows, it was Bryan Hall. He was the master of it.

There have been a few mile markers on your journey, one as recent as September of 2020. A decision was made to part ways with 630 CHED. Can you speak to overcoming adversity and transitioning into your new career?

Adversity but also excitement. I’m more optimistic now than I have ever been in my career. I was dreaming up ideas about what I’m doing now well before things went sideways at 630 CHED. It was on my radar that podcasts were big and that YouTube and live-streaming allowed you to have what was totally cost prohibitive before. So, yes it was an abrupt and unexpected end to my time there. I was booted out of the nest; it was terrifying but at the same time I was like, “Here we go!”

With an international reach and subscriptions in the thousands, tell us about your new podcast, Real Talk with Ryan Jespersen.

The show is named with intent and works on a number of different levels. It comes with an implication and an expectation. We are going to keep it real and the conversations are going to be meaningful and important. People with different or dissenting opinions don’t feel ostracized or excluded. I’m going to have guests that not everybody is going to be thrilled to see. It’s only been 8 weeks but it’s liberating.

There’s freedom in speech. Does yours now allow you and the guests to take the interview where it needs to go?

The more you give the audience what they are looking for – unfettered, integrity driven talk, Real Talk, they will respond and show support. That is incredibly empowering because then you’re less reliant on anything else. I really like conversations that make me so uncomfortable. I love inflicting discomfort on other people.

Hmmmm…so then who wins the uncomfortable conversations in the Jespersen home?

Because I’m smart, Kari. She’s often right and so am I.

If you could have anyone on Real Talk who would it be?

Maybe Barack Obama or Elon Musk, but if it’s living or dead, I’d love to do a round table with my four grandparents. That would be great!

Your podcast asks a weekly, Let’s Get Real, Timely Topic. How would you respond to your question of, “How do we as citizens stop the decline in the overall quality of politics?”

I think it begins with leadership. Find a way to attract quality people to politics and a big part of that is removing barriers. We need to look at why more women aren’t drawn to politics, why visible minorities aren’t drawn to politics, why people from lower economic backgrounds aren’t involved. There are barriers that exist that keep us in a certain position in general society, and what that looks like is not reflected in the halls of power.

Real Talk tackles news, politics, sports and pop culture, and true to form, Jespersen has already made it into one of Canada’s most listened-to, most subscribed-to, daily current affairs’ shows.

Time for some of your Trash Talk! What’s your biggest gripe?

My biggest gripe right now is salt stains on my leather shoes. I am obsessed with having my shoes always look good and the winter makes that very difficult.

Do you have a favourite podcast?

Spittin’ Chiclets – The Hockey Podcast. We’ve been trading punches on the PodBoard 100 as the most downloaded podcast in Canada. On the days that they beat me, it’s in part because I have listened to theirs and on the days when I beat them, I feel pretty good about it!

This new entrepreneurship takes a lot of energy. How do you decompress?

Self care is big. To be honest, I could do better at this. There’s a lot of time in the hot tub and at the cabin (Jespersen Garage) throwing darts and smoking cigars. I get away for a week every year with the boys to the mountains and go hiking and fishing. I spend a lot of time on the golf course in the summer, just ask Kari!

Your interviews have ranged from Rex Murphy to Deepak Chopra. Can you single out a guest that has left the biggest impact?

I did a radio series on Harm Reduction and Supervised Consumption Services such as Supervised Injection Sites. I interviewed a drug user named Rachel. She talked about why she used drugs, and at times was a very proud drug user. We talked about where she is today, her desire to be off of drugs and the fact that when she’s not high, her trauma returns. She painted this picture in perfect form and the audience response was huge. That might have been the most meaningful interview I’ve ever done.

What does Modern Media look like to you?

Media is changing so much and early response to Real Talk proves that there is a huge appetite and was a huge potential market for new adventures. It’s really about maximizing the technology, understanding the audience and removing barriers. It’s just a wild time.


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