close encounters of the neil kind: i keep almost meeting neil cicierega

by joebortner

I was still a teenager when I first almost met Neil Cicierega. I was attending a comic book convention in my hometown of Somerville, Massachusetts–a neighborhood bordering Boston. I had just passed the table of Ming Doyle, a local comic book artist and illustrator, when her husband, a lanky man carrying an infant, walked by me on my right. This man’s name was Neil Cicierega, and though I didn’t know it at the time, this non-encounter encounter would be the first of many.

Neil Cicierega is a fairly well-known internet comedian and musician, most well-known for his series “Potter Puppet Pals,” his band Lemon Demon, and a series of remix albums under the “Mouth Sounds” branding umbrella. I’ve been a fan of his for some time (I particularly enjoy the video where he mispronounces the names of Star Wars aliens). Cicierega, like me, is a resident of the greater Boston Area. We have never formally met. 

This summer, things began to escalate. I had volunteered to canvas for a few local political campaigns that summer where I ventured around the neighborhood talking to likely voters. I did the rounds with my brother and a friend, making light conversation as we went from house to house. One of the residences on our list bore an auspicious mailbox label–we had stumbled across the Cicierega-Doyle household. We rang the doorbell. No response. Strike II. 

joe bortner

Weeks later, I tabled at the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo, a big opportunity for me in my fledgling career as a comic book writer and artist. I was pleased to make the acquaintance of several Lemon Demon fans. They were eager to inform me that Cicierega himself was attending the very exhibition at which I was selling my wares. Out of the corner of my eye, I suddenly saw him; his back turned, vindictively unaware of my existence. I attempted to concoct various plans by which to attract Cicierega’s attention, but none were executed. Minutes later, I watched in horror as Neil glided past my table toward the exit, having given his patronage to every shop at the outdoor market save mine.

It was at this moment that I began to suspect the truth. These weren’t merely coincidental encounters of two people who live in the same geographic area for much of the year. Neil was avoiding me

But why? Why would Neil Cicierega, internet comedian and idiosyncratic musician, be avoiding a no-name cartoonist, barely at the start of his third decade of life? The answer was simple: he was scared. 
So, my question is: what are you so afraid of, Neil? I’ll be back home this upcoming break and I challenge you to a battle of strength and wits. Davis Square, Somerville, Massachusetts. In front of the ice cream store that my brother works at. You know the one. You’ll be there, if you’re not a coward.

Categories: cooler, joe bortner, oct. 12, vol 25

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