New Zealand-based entertainment reporter David Farrier thought he stumbled upon a funny video, only to discover it was no laughing matter at all.
Farrier, whose job revolves around the "weird and bizarre side of life", chanced upon competitive endurance tickling, a sport popularised by Jane O'Brien Media. Young athletic men age 18 to 25 are flown to Los Angeles to take part in events that involve being tied down BDSM-style and tickled. An innocuous request for an interview with O'Brien about such activities gets Farrier a curious response. He gets his mate, geeky television producer Dylan Reeve to do some digging, and the pair uncover a German holding company that controls over 300 domain names associated with tickling. Their actions attract a lawsuit from O'Brien, but instead of dropping the matter, Farrier and Reeve decide to investigate further and head over to the USA to search for answers. With much difficulty, they manage to get past participants in ticking competitions to speak about their experiences, which give the impression that something sinister is brewing beneath the surface.
Not funny: David Farrier and Dylan Reeve's investigation of the person behind the competitive tickling phenomenon
Farrier and Reeve later discover that a man named David D'Amato may have been behind the whole tickling phenomenon and possibly misusing the videos of contestants, as well as harassing them. They interview people with past dealings with D'Amato and later manage to confront D'Amato himself, which gets them further threats of legal action. It is later revealed that D'Amato is a former assistant principal with a conviction for computer misuse and the son of a prominent New York barrister. Towards the end of their investigation, Farrier and Reeve manage to speak to D'Amato's stepmother, who sheds some light on his bizarre behaviour.
All this forms the subject of Tickled, a documentary film that revolves around Farrier and Reeve investigating the world of competitive endurance tickling and the seedy dimension attached to it. Throughout the process, the pair faced many legal problems but still pushed ahead, even after a major sponsor threatened to pull out of the project. Their perseverance is something that journalists should seek to emulate. In an environment where time pressures water down the quality of published stories, Farrier and Reeve still managed to cover as many angles as possible, thus getting a rounded story for their documentary.
Tickled would certainly appeal to fans of Michael Moore, as well as those who appreciate good investigative journalism. Given the conditions of today's media market, such films are considered a rare gem indeed.