Tannin stand-up event showcases Iowa comedians

T-R PHOTOS BY ROBERT MAHARRY The six stand-up comedians who performed at Tannin on Friday night posed for a backstage photo before the show began. Kneeling is headliner Cody Tiano. From left to right, standing, are Shane Scharer, Sarah Pearson, Dillon Jacobson, Matt Hooper and host/producer Greg Romans.

Mary Curley, the co-owner of Tannin Wine Bar in Marshalltown, hadn’t ever thought about hosting a comedy show until a troupe from Pennsylvania approached her with the idea last summer.

The two nights in July went so well that Curley and her husband Tom got excited about the prospect of bringing stand-up back to Tannin, and they were able to connect with Greg Romans, an aspiring comedian in his own right with a link to the community through his digital marketing job at the MARSHALLTOWN Company.

On Friday night, Tannin hosted a total of six comedians — all from Iowa — and judging by audience reactions, it was another big success and a step toward establishing a framework for more frequent stand-up events in Marshalltown.

“I said, ‘Wow, that’s kind of a neat idea,’ so I kind of let it go for a month or so, and pretty soon, we were talking about something for Christmas time,” Mary Curley said of Romans’s initial proposal. “My staff all said ‘Let’s do it,’ and so here we are.”

Romans, who lives in Ankeny, started performing stand-up comedy about two years ago, and his wife joked that if this was his mid-life crisis, she was totally fine with it. In addition to performing in the opening slot and discussing the trials and tribulations of marriage and remarriage, he served as the producer and emcee for the event on Friday. Romans met each of the other comedians through open mic nights.

Greg Romans, who works as the digital marketing manager at MARSHALLTOWN Company, hosted and produced the event, and he also performed in the leadoff slot.

“Everyone is different, which is what I like. When I book shows, especially if I’m going to be in it or produce it, I want people that I think are funny,” he said. “If you can make me laugh, there’s a good chance we’re probably going to work together.”

Although five of the six comedians live in the Des Moines metro and are affiliated with Comedy DSM, the first performer after Romans may be more of a familiar face locally. Dillon Jacobson is a Conrad native and BCLUW graduate who’s currently a freshman at Marshalltown Community College, a fact he humorously dropped into his set while comparing his experiences to those of his friends at larger four-year schools. Jacobson’s ultimate goal is to become a filmmaker, but he signed up for an open mic event in Ankeny at the last minute and ended up meeting Romans, who’s since compared him to the wildly popular Bo Burnham, as a result.

“My dad told me about (the open mic event), so I just wrote up some stuff and just went on stage. It was completely unplanned,” Jacobson said. “It’s really nice to actually perform for an audience again. I’ve been doing plenty of open mics, but this is, like, a complete step above that I never thought I would get into. But a twist of fate one day just decided that.”

The other comedians brought their own distinctive styles — Matt Hooper, for example, is more dry and observational, while Shane Scharer is a manic livewire of almost constant high energy and a one-liner machine. Sarah Pearson, the lone female performer (though, it should be noted, women outnumbered men in the audience), opted for a more clever, word-based and spunky approach.

Cody Tiano, the headliner, performs semi-professionally and has travelled around the Midwest, and he says the biggest key to getting comfortable as a stand-up comedian is bombing a few times — preferably as hard as possible.

Dillon Jacobson, a Conrad native and current Marshalltown Community College student, was one of six stand-up comedians who performed at Tannin on Friday night.

“(At a show) in Ohio, I did my normal dirty set, and it was dead silence the whole time because it was nothing but 75-plus year-olds who had yachts and beach houses and things like that,” he said. “But there was a single mid 40s (to) early 50s biker in the front and a 90-year-old woman on an oxygen tank who were laughing. I was like ‘You are my audience.’ You play to your audience.”

Tickets at the small venue sold out quickly, and Mary and Tom Curley are both excited about the potential opportunity to host more events in the future. They see it as “something different” and as a small attempt to recapture the glory of the days when downtown Marshalltown was so packed on Friday nights that it was difficult to walk on the sidewalk.

“It’s really neat to bring something different to town, and we have done that with a lot of our musicians as well. But this is just a whole different caliber, and nobody else has comedy,” Mary said. “It’s just fun to have something else to do in Marshalltown because we are a small town, and we don’t get a lot of extra stuff.”


Contact Robert Maharry at 641-753-6611 ext. 255 or



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