When one hears that there is such a thing as “Competitive Professional Tickling” it’s hard to believe that the story behind it could be more disturbing and strange than the subject. But here we are with Tickled, a documentary by New Zealanders David Farrier and his friend Dylan Reeve. Farrier, a popular pop culture journalist stumbles across some tickling videos on the Internet which prompt him to do a story about the subject.
When his innocent initial inquiries to Jane O’Brien, the head of the media company that sponsors the events are met with a barrage of strange, homophobic and angry threats of litigation, Farrier becomes more intrigued and enlists Reeve to help him get to the bottom of a story that has suddenly become very interesting. As Farrier and Reeve fall down a rabbit hole that takes them all over the United States interviewing anyone who is brave enough (or has already lost enough) to speak to them, they find that tracking down the elusive Jane O’Brien only uncovers more and more disturbing facts.
Tickled is a film with a subject unlike any other I’d ever seen, and was completely different from what I expected. I knew from the trailer that there was something there beyond the whole tickling thing, but I certainly didn’t expect the horrific turn of events (which I won’t spoil). What seems like a “only in America” (or Japan, usually) thing becomes a bizarre sexual fetish that exploits and ultimately blackmails unwitting and desperate people. And the people behind it are so terrible, vindictive and dangerous that they make Scientology look like child’s play.
While Tickled wasn’t a masterpiece by any stretch, they really uncovered a fascinating and disturbing story that made for an interesting 90 minutes of film. At the time the film was made, Farrier and Reeve were still under the threat of litigation so I really appreciate their bravery in moving forward with the film, particularly after learning everything they did about the subject. I would absolutely recommend Tickled for its strange story alone – you truly have to see it to believe it.