September 4, 2013

Mount Carmel native Scott Siepker, the face of "Iowa Nice" snark, joined forces in recent days with celebrities Tom Arnold and Jay Mohr to make the case for wrestling as an Olympic sport.

A few days later, Siepker launched Season 2 of the "Iowa Nice" guy on ESPN-U, the Goliath sports network's college-focused channel. Mr. Iowa Nice will be on air during ESPN-U's "College Football Daily." He'll generally appear on Wednesdays, but there will be some replays.

"This week it was more difficult with the Iowa and Iowa State helmets so I asked UNI if they would send me a helmet," Siepker said, referencing his fireplace-framed set and the state university helmets resting on a nearby table.

Iowa and Iowa State lost home openers, making Siepker as much a taker as a disher this week.

Siepker's Iowa Filmmakers reached a deal with ESPN for continued regular college football commentaries featuring his trademark dry, often geographic-based humor of the sort that vaulted him into national prominence last year with "Iowa Nice," a laugh-out-loud, creative defense of the Hawkeye State on broader, more political measures.

Early Tuesday morning, Siepker, a 30-year-old Drake University acting professor and Carroll High School alum, released an Iowa Filmmakers' video on YouTube supporting the sport of wrestling in the Olympics - "Wrestling Nice."

The International Olympic Committee is weighing wrestling's future in a key vote Sept. 8. In February, the Olympic board recommended dropping wrestling. Siepker, seeing it as a slight to Iowa, where wrestling is highly popular, started writing a script defending wrestling with the same verve and panache that propelled "Iowa Nice."

Soon after, he connected with friend Tom Arnold, the Ottumwa native and star of dozens of TV shows and movies, from "Roseanne" to "True Lies."

Arnold caught word of Siepker's "Hawkeye Nice" send-up in 2012 and quickly scouted the Internet for the videos.

"He saw 'Hawkeye Nice,' and of course, he's a big Hawkeye fan, so he tweeted at me that he freaking loves it," Siepker said.

Some more tweets (use of the social networking Internet tool Twitter) followed with Arnold eventually saying to Siepker, "Let's do some (expletive)!"

The conversation soon switched from Twitter to email where Arnold and Siepker continued brainstorming about possible collaboration.

They've stayed in touch. Recently Siepker, and cameramen Nick Strickland of Des Moines, found themselves in Los Angeles with Arnold, and the script in hand for "Wrestling Nice."

"Can you honestly tell me there's 26 sports more Olympic than wrestling," Arnold says in his cameo.

Siepker's pitch on behalf of a sport beloved in Iowa is a whirlwind of history and humor. He makes the case that the Olympic pursuit of wrestling predates The Crusades, Columbus and even the invention of the wheel. And he cleverly takes soccer and tennis to task as sports lacking in, well, Olympic rigor.

While in Los Angeles last week, Siepker reached out to sports-talk-show host, and comedian-actor Jay Mohr (Tom Cruises's nemesis Bob Sugar in the 1996 film "Jerry McGuire.")

Mohr, playing off wrestling's origins, does something of a nude scene in "Wrestling Nice."

"When I wrote the script, I thought there's no way I'm going to get somebody to do that," Siepker said.

But when he met with Mohr in Fox Sport Radio's studios in Los Angeles, where the comedian hosts his national program, Siepker found an unabashed collaborator.

"He's like, 'Let's do this," Siepker said. "A whirlwind is the best way to describe Jay Mohr. He is kind of what you expect he is. It's his genuine personality."

The "Wrestling Nice" video is already gaining traction on YouTube. WHO-TV in Des Moines played part of it Tuesday night during a 10 p.m. news broadcast.

"Hopefully, we'll get some people to pick it up," Siepker said.

As for the ESPN gig, Alabama may be doing well in the football polls, but the state isn't above a withering battery of insults from Mr. Iowa Nice.

"At this point nobody is questioning Alabama's national dominance - in illiteracy," Siepker opined on his opening night with ESPN-U.

A tide of crimson-mad calls rolled in after that riff.

And then there's Iowa's western neighbor. Nebraska is sure to be a frequent Iowa Nice target this season - at it was last. These are the jokes that clearly keep Siepker up at night. He relishes firing zingers across the Missouri River.

Siepker describes hair care in the Cornhusker State as "mullet brushing," a reference to what he contends is the prevalence of the longer hairstyles for men popularized in the 1980s.

And he has some predictions for Nebraska fans: "This year, the only thing that will irritate you more than the Husker football results is the long walk you take in the winter to your outhouse."

One part of Siepker's journey that's no joke is the generosity of Arnold. Siepker spent time at Arnold's home, viewing his art collection, talking about his own career with the movie and television star.

"I went to Tom's home, and he's been amazingly gracious to me," Siepker said.

Taking a cue from Arnold, who is known for his prolific appearances, Siepker extends his schedule to Des Moines radio as well, appearing as a regular guest on the "Murph and Andy Show" on 1460 KXNO. Siepker is usually on Fridays and has guest-hosted the full Keith Murphy and Andy Fales program, which runs weekdays from 2 to 4 p.m.