A local teen with autism celebrates 600 episodes of The Jackson Robol Show
In 2020, a Pitt County teen with autism started a show on Facebook called The Jackson Robol Show. He started small, interviewing local leaders. Now he’s attracting big names and celebrating his 600th episode.
"I've always been interested in connecting with people and hearing their stories," Jackson said.
Jackson’s studio is in a small, lightly furnished room. It has a ring light, a microphone and computer, all on a wooden table. To get there you have to travel through his bedroom, which is decked out in Denver Broncos décor. He’s a big sports fan. Before the show and in the privacy of his room, he’d call play-by-play as he watched a game on TV. That’s when the seed was planted for doing a show, say his mother, Anne Marie Robol.
“He was enunciating and talking a whole lot clearer when he was doing play by plays, so his dad and him came up with the idea of doing a podcast,” she said. Jackson's father is Ken Robol, who helps out with the show.
He was 17 when he started the Jackson Robol Show in 2020. Today, he has more than 3,300 followers. The episodes are about 15 minutes each, recorded over zoom and uploaded to Facebook and other platforms. Jackson has conducted hundreds of interviews in just 3 years, and he comes prepared for each of them.
“Jackson handles a lot of it," Anne Marie said. "He invites guests, he writes some of the questions, his dad helps out some, and then Jackson edits it all together.”
It's hours of work for each episode, and Jackson is producing them at a rapid clip — averaging 200 a year.
He’s interviewed a lot of high-profile people: Greenville Mayor P.J. Connolly, State Treasurer and Republican gubernatorial candidate Dale Folwell, former drummer for Hootie and the Blowfish Jim Sonefeld, and the actress and model Darcy Donavan.
“Not only was she incredibly pretty but she’s also brought a fantastic energy to the show,” Robol said.
In 2021, Jackson broadcasted live from the North Carolina State Capitol building, where he interviewed a stream of legislators, including House Majority Leader John Bell. With guests from a varied fields and many big names, it'd be enough to shake many people's nerves — but not Jackson.
"I never get nervous. Not at all really," he said. "I just like doing my show a lot.”
Jackson loves talking with people. That's why he enjoys doing the show. But, it wasn’t always this way. Jackson was nonverbal until he was five. His mother Anne Marie says its exciting now to see him on his show.
“It was scary at first, but it was fun to see him doing this and putting himself out there because you know not everybody wants to be in public speaking," Anne Marie said. "But Jackson doesn’t seem to have a problem.”
When not working on the show or watching sports, Jackson pursues other endeavors. He edits a friend's podcast and helps build and post to websites for local business.
The Jackson Robol show will soon be releasing its 600th episode. The guest is Libby Hunsdale, a New Zealand actress with down syndrome. She's known for the 2021 film Poppy and the Netflix reality show Down for Love — a show following people with down syndrome as they navigate dating.
“This topic is especially close to my heart because my girlfriend has down syndrome and its critical to raise awareness about it,” he said.
His 600th episode is not the only celebration this month, Jackson will soon be turning 20. Looking to the future, Jackson has no intentions of slowing down, but he’s set his sights on one potential guest.
“The dream interview that keeps coming up is none other than coach Gregg Popovich of the Spurs," Jackson said, referring to the NBA team in San Antonio. "I’d love to have him on the show.”