Neil Cicierega’s Gloriously Goofy Mark on the Internet
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The early-to-mid 2000s were defined by the birth of the Internet. As social media grew with the advent of spaces such as YouTube and Newgrounds, a unique culture started developing across the online sphere. Memes started to be viewed and shared with increasing virality, and Internet users started making content of their own, using the new platforms to find themselves an audience. YouTube gave creators an especially welcoming place to post content that could be easily shared amongst large groups of people. One of the greatest contributors to the growing “Internet culture” of the time was singer-songwriter, animator, and content creator Neil Cicierega. Despite being an unfamiliar name to many, Cicierega’s impact on the Internet is immense; his influential media projects were integral to the shape it took during its formative years.
Cicierega started off his Internet presence by creating a series of surrealist Flash animations dubbed “Animutations.” These videos were known for their random and nonsensical style, usually heavily featuring pop culture imagery. One of Cicierega’s early animutations, “Hyakugojyuuichi!!!” got quite a bit of attention and currently sits at 470k views on YouTube. Due to the popularity of Cicierega’s animutations, a large community of content creators began to mimic Cicierega’s style. The emergence of these “fanimutations” had a large impact on the developing Internet, as their popularity allowed weirder, more absurd forms of humor to dominate. Cicierega’s animutations established the Internet as platform where all logic and conventions could be thrown out the window, where even something as stupid and bizarre as “Hyakugojyuuichi!!!” could be recognized as a work of art. Cicierega also created a comedy series in 2003 titled “Potter Puppet Pals,” a series of Flash animations, and later live action puppet shows that spoofed Harry Potter. “The Mysterious Ticking Noise,” the most popular entry of the series, sitting at 197 million views on YouTube. It grew so popular that, at one point, Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe went on to mention it in an interview. However, while these early projects helped Cicierega make a name for himself, what truly set him as an influential online figure would be his musical career.
Starting in 2003, Cicierega would use the alias Lemon Demon for the majority of his musical projects. Under this pseudonym, Cicierega produced two of his most popular videos, “BRODYQUEST,” and “The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny.” “The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny” was a Flash animated music video depicting various pop culture icons such as Godzilla and Batman fighting it out in one big brawl. “BRODYQUEST,” on the other hand, was a music video uploaded on June 1, 2010, comedically depicting actor Adrien Brody traversing various random settings, spreading his influence as he went. These two videos are emblematic of Cicierega’s general style of content, capitalizing on weird concepts and unusual depictions of pop culture icons. Both would become known as some of the first “viral videos” and would serve as the groundwork for what would become the future of internet virality: short, humorous, and nonsensical pieces of media. “BRODYQUEST” and “The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny” continue to be relevant, with parodies of them being constantly produced and shared by people across the Internet to this day. More recently, Cicierega released the album “Spirit Phone” (2016). The album turned out to be Cicierega’s most successful project as Lemon Demon, topping Bandcamp’s charts for its first week after being released. Cicierega’s signature style was carried over to his music, with his songs displaying the same deliberate absurdity his videos did. The album maintains its quality as a standalone piece of music too, as, despite its characteristic weirdness, it has some truly catchy compositions. “Spirit Phone” would also turn out to be Cicierega’s most notable musical work, with the song “Touch-Tone Telephone” topping “The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny” in plays on Spotify alone. But, while much of Cicierega’s most notable works originated from Lemon Demon, his musical career stretches beyond any one name.
Cicierega produced four mashup albums between 2014 and 2020 known as the “Mouth” albums. The records were known for their uniquely high quality, though undeniably peculiar, mashups, such as with “Spongerock,” a song from the album “Mouth Dreams” that mashed up the Spongebob Squarepants Theme song and “We Will Rock You” by Queen into an unusually catchy rock tune. The widespread positive reception of the “Mouth” albums demonstrated Cicierega’s strong suits as an artist. He was at his best when the music he produced was subversive and abnormal, and the “Mouth” albums demonstrated these characteristics greatly.
Cicierega was responsible for creating some of the most influential online media of all time, which continue to be culturally relevant over a decade after their releases. His unique style of content creation, which perfectly mixed pop culture and bizarre, absurdist humor together, spread through the entire Internet. Cicierega’s early works helped shape the Internet’s sense of humor toward the kind of absurdist style of comedy that exists today. His videos set the standard for what would be defined as the proper “viral video” for years. To say Neil Cicierega had a large impact on the Internet would be an understatement. Though his popularity has waned since his glory days, Cicierega shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. To this day, he continues producing wacky, subversive content for a massive community of people. Cicierega has shown that he is here to stay, and that he will continue to be an influential figure in the vast Internet landscape for years to come.