Competitive Tickling Documentary Prompts Controversy, Threats of Lawsuits

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"Tickled" co-director David Farrier, entrepreneur Richard Ivey and a tickle subject in "Tickled." (Credit: Magnolia Pictures)

When David Farrier first stumbled upon the largely secret world of competitive endurance tickling, it seemed like just another quirky story for him to cover as an entertainment and pop culture journalist for New Zealand television.

But the tone of his story changed after he took a closer look and found what he alleges is a tale of wealth, power and deception. Farrier’s investigation into that world with co-director Dylan Reeve is at the center of “Tickled,” a documentary that has led to threats of legal action against the filmmakers and a contentious confrontation when the film’s subjects showed up at a Los Angeles screening earlier this month.

“We thought it was an important film to make, which I know sounds ridiculous because it is about tickling, but we wanted to expose some things going on that didn’t seem to be right,” Farrier said of the documentary now playing in theaters. “Hopefully, the film will act as a warning and force some action to take place.”

“Tickled” follows Farrier and Reeve as they delve into the background of the Los Angeles-based company Jane O’Brien Media, which recruits attractive, physically fit young men to participate in tickling competitions. To the filmmakers, the activities appeared to be part of a fetish operation, but the organizers insist the tickling is a non-erotic endurance sport.

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