When I spoke with David Farrier by phone on June 22, 2016, I started by asking him if he had been served any legal papers that day. It was a semi-facetious question. Making his endlessly fascinating, endlessly surprising documentary, TICKLED, has resulted in an ongoing string of legal threats and a not a few legal actions by the shadowy subject of that film. It would be a crime to spoil any of TICKLED’s twists or turns, but suffice to say that when Farrier decided to pursue the subject of competitive endurance tickling as a television report in his native New Zealand, things got weird. Fast.
Farrier’s quick wit and razor-sharp smarts were evident during our conversation, which started in earnest with my asking why he wouldn’t take no, or a lawsuit, for an answer, when curiosity becomes a crusade, and being trapped in a car with three other Kiwis, including co-director Dylan Reeve, on an 18-hour, non-stop car trip from Florida to New York. He also brought me up to date on the latest wrinkle in his ongoing legal and personal wrangling with the person behind the web site that started it all.
We finished up with, for many excellent reasons, my lobbying for him to make a documentary about our current presidential election cycle. I’m pleased to say he didn’t exactly say no.
TICKLED is his documentary that starts in laughter and ends with a journey to the dark side of the human soul. Farrier was working as a pop-culture journalist on New Zealand television when he was sent a link by a friend Clicking on it, he discovered a site devoted to competitive endurance tickling, and thought that he had another in a series of light entertainment stories like the ones he’d been doing for years for New Zealand television. But this one was different. A polite and professional request for an interview unleashed a torrent of bigoted abuse that became more and more vitriolic, eventually involving legal threats and a visit by representatives of the web site that degenerated into more threats and a camera in a coffee cup. More amused than insulted, more intrigued that put off, Farrier decided to unearth as much as he could about the faceless entity behind the website. What started as just another day in the office became a trans-Pacific odyssey that found Farrier and his intrepid film crew circumnavigating the United States on the trail of the story behind the web site that led to a disturbing protagonist, and an unexpected examination of how those on the low end of the economic scale are exploited. Farrier co-directed TICKLED with Dylan Reeve. He has been a television journalist since 2006, as well as appearing in the SHORT POPPIES as a journalist. He also hosts the podcast and radio show The Cryptid Factor with comedian Rhys Darby.