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[VIDEO] Tickled Co-Director David Farrier Talks Balancing the Silly and Serious & The Tickle King’s HBO Debut

A heads up: if you haven’t seen Tickled or its necessary follow-up The Tickle King, there are some spoilers in this video. 

Explaining Tickled as a documentary is a bit challenging because you have to embrace both the silliness of an online sport titled “competitive endurance tickling” and the incredibly dark underside of exploitation, shame, and unfair power. That’s a balance that’s hard to strike not just in editing, co-director David Farrier tells us, but also in other parts of making the documentary.

The story begins with New Zealand reporter Farrier coming across this “sport” on the internet, and as a journalist interested in weird and off-beat stories, he reaches out to learn more from a company called Jane O’Brien Media. Soon after, he’s met with harsh rejection and homophobic comments which only grow as he pursues what’s clearly a bigger story. He and Dylan Reeve then continue this pursuit, until they uncover the dark, scary, and weird world that lies behind what seems like innocent videos.

“What happened afterward?” seems to be everyone’s main question after watching Tickled. In a follow-up of the film that captures the kind of incidents and threats they received once the film started screening at Sundance and other locations, The Tickle King shows how the issues presented in the film are ongoing. Things get tense, and it’s a must-watch if you’ve seen the film.

Tickled made waves not just because its premise is so memorable, but because the endurance and persistence of the creators is remarkable as they step up again bullies who use the legal system, money, intimidation, and lies as their weapons. Farrier talked to us about how he and Reeve balanced these elements to make a powerful film that’s striving for social change—ideally both legal action and awareness. We talk about how the film grew from a curiosity into a mission, audience members accidentally discovering a fetish for tickling, and the unexpected resonance of a movie that’s all about online shame and power-hungry people. What would Donald Trump think about Tickled? Would he see himself reflected in the cruel antagonists who use their money as a shield against people who don’t have the funds to fight back?

Tickled and Tickle King come to HBO this Monday at 10 PM. It’s definitely worth a watch!

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