No Laughing Matter: ‘Shocking’ HBO Doc Tackles an Unlikely Subject

Feb 6, 2017  •  Post A Comment

An HBO documentary that premieres this month examines a subject many viewers may not realize even exists: competitive endurance tickling.

The pay-cable net announced today that “Tickled” will premiere Feb. 27. The production, which HBO calls “shocking,” follows reporter David Farrier as he attempts to investigate the story behind the phenomenon.

“Delving deeper, he encounters fierce resistance, and the more he investigates, the stranger it gets, leading to the discovery of decades of abuse,” HBO says in its announcement.

Immediately following the premiere of “Tickled,” HBO Documentary Films will premiere “The Tickle King,” an exclusive 20-minute follow-up for HBO NOW, HBO GO and HBO On Demand.

“‘Tickled,’ the feature-length documentary debut of co-directors David Farrier and Dylan Reeve, follows New Zealand TV reporter Farrier and his tech-savvy friend Reeve as they seek to untangle the mystery behind a competitive-tickling competition,” HBO says in its announcement. “When Farrier discovers these unusual videos — featuring tied-up young men enduring a cavalcade of ticklers — online, he contacts Jane O’Brien Media, the company responsible for the competitions.

“To his surprise, Farrier is met with a barrage of homophobic rants and threats from the company, which, he admits, ‘made [him] more curious than ever.’ The filmmakers are immediately hit with legal threats and three ‘associates’ of Jane O’Brien Media fly to Auckland to talk Farrier and Reeve out of their investigation.”

The investigation leads Farrier and Reeve to “hidden tickling studios” in Los Angeles, where they uncover “a vast empire, known for harassing and harming people who protest their involvement in these films,” HBO says. “Along the way, they gain insight from journalists Hal Karp and Debbie Scoblionkov, who previously investigated similar stories; tickling fetishist Richard Ivey, who makes his own videos, but in a non-exploitative manner; former casting director Dave Starr, whose participation in providing young men for ‘tickle torture films’ led to him experiencing the wrath of his former employer; and participants who have seen their lives ruined by a mysterious and vindictive online bully.”

The film premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.

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