Scott Siepker is a nice guy. But he’s not THAT nice guy. He really wants you to know that the famous Iowa Nice Guy he portrays is just a character. One of many characters. Because he’s an actor.
OK, so now that we have that out of the way, we can talk about Scott Siepker the person and how he’s a full-time actor in the state of Iowa, with no day job. The 2005 psychology grad knows that he’s a bit of a unicorn in flyover country.
“I’m an actor in Iowa!” he declares. “It’s not a punch line! Most people laugh when I tell them. I’m like, ‘I’m an actor in Iowa,’ and they go ‘Hahahaha.’ I’m like, ‘No, really!’”
Siepker juggles a ridiculous number of acting and theatrical projects. He does regular guest spots on a radio show each week. He hosts “Iowa Outdoors,” a program on Iowa Public Television. He’s on stage in local theatre productions (including recently portraying Macbeth). He used to do a show on ESPN. He does a lot (a LOT) of public speaking. And he and his business partners manage a film company, Iowa Filmmakers.
But it was one less-than-two-minute video shot on New Year’s Eve during the 2012 Iowa Caucus cycle that made Siepker a media star. “Iowa Nice” was the brainchild of Siepker’s Iowa Filmmakers partner Paul David Benedict.
“The reason Iowa Nice came about was Paul was listening to some radio report about Iowa, and the way they were describing Iowa just didn’t fit with what he thought the reality of Iowa is. In his head he started saying these funny insults and curses, and he thought, ‘This is funny. I should write this down.’ And then he thought, ‘Who do I know who’s OK with swearing?’ So he came to me. And then we went out and filmed it, and I guess the rest, as they say, is history.”
Siepker posted “Iowa Nice” to Facebook and to his seven Twitter followers. Several media outlets in town for the caucuses picked it up. The video went viral, he says, when Rachel Maddow of “The Rachel Maddow Show” called it the best political ad to come out that year. At last count, the video had more than 1.4 million views on YouTube.
With his newfound success, Siepker tapped back into his Iowa Nice Guy persona for Cyclone Nice and Hawkeye Nice videos, flinging insults at other schools that, he says, “solidified the Iowa Nice Guy as the Sultan of Smack.”
But Siepker himself isn’t anything like his most famous character.
“I’m certainly not that dry,” he says. “I’m not that cool. I’m much more spastic. But I know that character. I can feel it. And it certainly is a part of me, there’s no doubt about it.”
Siepker left his full-time desk job with a major corporate employer in Des Moines in May 2015 to devote more time to his acting career. He recently moved into a larger apartment to accommodate his growing need for workspace. And he can tick off a long list of projects he wants to work on, everything from a feature-length documentary film about Iowa heroes Jack Trice and Nile Kinnick to television series to expanding his reach as a speaker. But mostly he wants to help promote the state of Iowa as a place where artists of all kinds can make a living.
“There are challenges to being a filmmaker and an artist in Iowa, but part of my mission is to make it easier for those who come after me,” he says. “Money is the big thing that’s missing now in Iowa. More artists need to be able to make a living off their art. I’m one of the few, and there have to be a lot more of us – painters, sculptors, musicians, writers, photographers – more of us who are fortunate enough to be able to do that. I don’t want to move. I want to stay here. I love Des Moines, and I want to figure out a way to make everything happen HERE. I have a wonderful life. I might have the BEST life, I really might.”
View the Iowa Nice video
(warning: strong language)