Ten Things That Tickled Taught Me

David Farrier and Dylan Reeve's documentary Tickled is so over-the-top and disturbing that I still wonder if it's all a put-on. It begins with Auckland, New Zealand-based journalist Farrier, who has built a career pursuing offbeat stories for television, exploring an international tickling competition.

You know those doubts you had about ping-pong really being a sport while watching the Olympics? That's nothing compared to how you'll feel upon seeing competitive tickling. As Farrier barely scratches the surface while investigating the tickling fetish, he receives a mysterious email demanding he drop the story lest he be outed as a “faggot.”

That's followed by lawyers traveling from the United States to New Zealand to reiterate Farrier and his filmmaking partner Reeve had better drop the project if they do not want to be sued in their country as well as in America. Of course, Farrier and Reeve do what any responsible journalists would do: They double down and really investigate the story.

Their quest for answers has them bouncing all over, from Florida to Los Angeles, from New York to Michigan. Unraveling the mystery of who is behind the effort to quash them becomes the focus of their project. Rather than give away any more about Tickled, which you really must see to believe (or become skeptical about), I'm going to simply list 10 things I learned upon viewing it.

1) Do not assume anyone on the internet is who s/he says s/he is.

2) After warmly greeting opposing counsel at the airport with a colorful welcome sign, do not let them find out you are videotaping them, as it only pisses them off.

3) Do not allow yourself to be strapped into a tickle chair, especially if you are extremely ticklish, as I am, and prone to painful memories of a certain large Latina sitting on you in the schoolyard as she tickled you mercilessly. Don't think I haven't forgotten, Lorraine!

4) If you do allow yourself to be strapped into a tickle chair—and are then videotaped for a movie that is being screened internationally—spend many months before the shooting day strapped into something else: a PSX machine. No one wants to see your abs flabbing—no one!—and for God's sake, MANSCAPE!

5) Do not believe a waiver that states you are being videotaped solely for someone's “private collection,” as what that really means is the footage will be posted for everyone in the world to see and on so many websites you cannot possibly get it taken down everywhere. Well, Viacom can, but you can't.

6) Do not appear in a tickling video if you are not prepared to continue appearing in them for life, for any attempt to break away from the secret society will cost you and your family embarrassment and emotional, financial and employment pain.

7) Even if you keep appearing in tickling videos, you might be treated to embarrassment and emotional, financial and employment pain because the same shadowy figure who gets off on tickling videos gets off on ruining the lives of participants in them. It's like working for the High Sparrow.

8) Do not be surprised by how low a sadist with deep pockets will go to ruin you—over and over, forever and ever.

9) Do not be shocked when your movie's creepy main villain shows up to confront you at a screening you are introducing, as Tickled's did to Reeve at the Nuart Theatre in Los Angeles on June 24. (See the video on Twitter or Facebook.)

10) Be prepared to look wistfully at folks who have managed to erase their digital lives and now live off the grid. They are on to something and are probably not even ticklish.

Tickled was directed by David Farrier and Dylan Reeve. Screening at Art Theatre, 2025 E. Fourth St., Long Beach, (562) 438-5435; www.arttheatrelongbeach.org. Sat.-Sun., 11 a.m. $8-$11.

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