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A simple query about the quirky 'sport' of Competitive Tickling led journalist David Farrier on a very strange journey. Read more

Auckland, NZ Documentary
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This project was successfully funded on June 6, 2014.

A simple query about the quirky 'sport' of Competitive Tickling led journalist David Farrier on a very strange journey.

Auckland, NZ Documentary
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About this project

Thanks to everyone who's supported us! We've reached our target!

We can't wait to tell this story and we're really excited to bring it to you all!

You can keep an eye on the project at and on our Facebook page!


My name is David Farrier.

At the moment I'm in a show on Netflix with Rhys Darby, it's called Short Poppies. In the show I play a journalist. It wasn't hard because that's what I am.

Usually I report on quirky and odd stories for New Zealand's TV3.

A month ago a friend sent me a link to a website. It was offering young men from all over the world a paid trip to LA, accommodation in a 5-star hotel and thousands of dollars cash - an in exchange for a just a little on-camera tickling.

It was called “Competitive Tickling”.

It sounds too good to be true, but it was all real. The company had been making videos for some time. They’re free to watch on Vimeo.

Even better, some New Zealanders had taken part - perfect for my quirky little story. 

I’ve seen a lot of odd stuff. This definitely seemed odd. 

And while everyone was fully clothed… in Adidas sports gear... it all seemed a little bit gay. We’ll come back to that point shortly.

Fascinated, I reached out - first by email. 

They told me they’d have to consult with their legal team. I didn’t hear back, so posted on their Facebook page, calling out to New Zealanders who had taken part.

Debbie from “Jane O’Brien Media” replied, saying, “To be brutally frank, association with a homosexual journalist is not something that we will embrace”.

A bizarre trail of emails began between myself, Jane O’Brien herself, and their PR person Debbie - all becoming increasingly homophobic - and all over me wanting to do a story about the very straight activity of young, attractive men tickling each other.

(That was me being a bit sarcastic there.)

Me and some friends began to dig around, suspecting something was fishy. 

It was.

What we found was a strange pattern of shaming, blackmail and online exploitation.

What were Debbie and Jane up to?

Well, we started looking into their online presence - soon it all led back to man: “Norman Van Der Koos” 

A bit more digging, and Norman seemed more likely to be a 53 year old man we like to call The Tickle King.

This is where things get good.

The Tickle King was arrested by the FBI back in 2001 after a 3 year investigation. He’d been posing online as a young woman called Terri, recruiting young men for tickling videos.

The Tickle King was also known for tormenting people online and impersonating other people.

He was jailed for 6 months and fined five thousand dollars.

Now - more than 10 years later - it seems he’s back.

I wrote about all this for 3News here in New Zealand.. and as I wrote.. more and more people came out of the woodwork.

Now I want to make a documentary about all this. 

The competitive tickling shoots are still going on in Los Angeles. 

I need to get there with a crew and talk to those in the tickling scene, annoyed this old nightmare was resurfaced.

I want to track down Jane and Debbie and the elusive Tickle King.

I want to talk to a host of other people involved in this story. From other tickling-video makers, to tickle-porn directors, to the people who now find themselves subject to a raft of online abuse just because they got tickled for an hour.

The money we’re asking for will get us to the USA for a week or two to chase this story down and interview those involved.

Back at home in New Zealand, it will let me talk New Zealanders who have been burnt by all this.

All the groundwork and research has been done - and it’s ongoing - pages and pages and pages of it.

Names and connections that are far too complex to go into here. 

I just need to add some visuals to this story - a story that seems to have captured people’s imaginations.

From reddit to podcasts this last week alone has been madness.

This is a story about fake identities





...and Blackmail

This is a story about tickling.


If you've read the story above you'll know about David (@davidfarrier), a journalist with a professional interest in the quirky.

He's joined in this endeavor by Dylan Reeve (@dylanreeve), a television post-production professional with over a decade of experience in the creation of television programs in all genres who just happened to find himself pulled into this rabbit hole when he started researching the web presence of Jane O'Brien Media.

And by Dan (@danbakes), 22-year-old Aucklander with a keen eye for the weird. After seeing Farrier's post on his timeline, he quickly took to the archives of the internet to see just who was behind Jane O'Brien Media. He set up a blog and informed David of his findings, and soon after became engrossed in this ticklish tale.

Also Joshua Drummond (@cakeburger), a freelance writer and illustrator from New Zealand whose sarcastic reply to a homophobic comment on a Facebook page devoted to competitive tickling videos landed him in a story far stranger than he could ever have imagined

Our target is mainly built around the projected costs of getting David and a crew to the US for a week or two to chase the story. Beyond that we're willing and able to put the rest together with our own skills and the professional favours of friends.

If we exceed our target then we'll expand our targets a little, and also make sure that those we're relying on to help us make this get fairly paid for their work.

Any over-funding will also get directed toward post-production - making it less likely that Dylan will have to edit it by himself on his laptop. But if we need to, that will work too.

The project is somewhat time sensitive obviously, so we want to strike while the iron is hot (which is why the funding window is so short). We hope to have the finished product all done and dusted by November.

David works for TV3 as a contractor, and while they've been very supportive of his work on the story and the investigation so far, this tale really doesn't seem likely to fit into any of their existing formats. 

We want to be free to follow this story where it takes us, and tell it in our own way, so we're going it alone.

Risks and challenges

The reality is that our investigation so far means that the people behind Jane O'Brien Media know we're on to them (even more so once they see this project). There's a real chance they shut up shop and go to ground.

The bad news is that would mean almost no chance of finding or talking to those involved in running the company.

The good news is that probably wouldn't matter too much. This story is crazy enough and there are enough people on the periphery that we can tell the tale even without the tickle masters themselves.

We are experienced in journalism and film-making so regardless of the eventualities we have no doubt that we'll produce a film at the end of this. And we believe it'll make for pretty entertaining viewing!

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter


  • Yeah, exactly! That's why we need to make this documentary.

    Last updated:
  • Not at all. Lots of people are into all sorts of different things, and we're totally cool with that.

    We've actually had quite strong support from members of the tickling community and plan to interview a number of them for the film. Many of them are not fans of Jane O'Brien Media and 'The Tickle King'

    Last updated:
  • Absolutely.

    Some people seem to think this is a joke, or a parody, or something. It definitely isn't. Everything we've said about it here and in the related articles and blog posts is entirely for real. We are going to get on a plane, fly to the US and make all this into a documentary.

    Last updated:
  • We've certainly uncovered the biggest aspects of the stories in our posts online, but part of the reason we decided to make the documentary is that we started to find even more information and hear from people who'd been affected by 'The Tickle King'. It was all getting a little too complex to cover in text.

    The documentary will obviously cover the story as we've written about it, but it will go beyond that, and further in depth on some things as well.

    Last updated:
  • We've heard from a couple of people that they may be, but we can't verify that.

    Last updated:
  • We are not yet exploring any distribution. Once we get further on in the production we will explore our options more for exhibition and distribution.

    At the very least we will make it available for streaming/download online through one or more service for anyone who wants to watch it.

    Last updated:
  • Of course it's possible we're mistaken, although we really don't think that's the case.

    Last updated:


  • You selected
    Pledge $5 or more

    29 backers

    Keep Up To Date - You’ll get access to our exclusive backers-only updates. That will include updates on our discoveries, some posts and photos from ‘the trail’ and sneak previews of clips and footage from the documentary! (About US$4.50)

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $10 or more

    262 backers

    Streaming Access - You'll get access to our finished film for online streaming once it's finished - at least a week before it’s made publicly available. (About US$9)

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $25 or more

    218 backers

    Digital Download - You'll receive access to download a DRM-free digital copy of the documentary once it's finished - at least a week before it’s made publicly available. (About US$22)

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  • You selected
    Pledge $50 or more

    40 backers

    Q&A Presentation - You’ll get the Digital Download, and a double pass to a 1-hour presentation by David Farrier and his team in Auckland about the world of Competitive Tickling, and be able to ask questions about their journey so far. There will be a powerpoint presentation! You'll need to get yourself to Auckland. (About US$45)

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  • You selected
    Pledge $75 or more

    31 backers

    Premiere Screening - You’ll get the Digital Download… But before that, you’ll be in the first audience in the world to see the documentary with an invitation for two to an exclusive private screening in Auckland. There will be a short Q&A afterward. You’re responsible for getting yourself to Auckland. (About US$65)

    Estimated delivery:
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    Pledge $100 or more

    12 backers All gone!

    Thanks To Credit - You’ll get the Digital Download, and receive an individual 'Thanks To' credit in the finished film. (About US$90)

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  • You selected
    Pledge $100 or more

    40 backers

    Thanks To Credit - You’ll get the Digital Download, an invite for two to the Auckland Premiere Screening and receive an individual 'Thanks To' credit in the finished film. (About US$90)

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $250 or more

    6 backers Limited (4 left of 10)

    Coffee and Q&A with Farrier - You get the Digital Download, a double pass to the Q&A session in Auckland, and Farrier will grab a coffee with you (his shout) in Auckland OR Skype you if you’re not in Auckland for some reason (no coffee provided over Skype). You can ask him anything (within reason, and preferably journalism-related). He will also follow you on twitter and laugh at some of your jokes. (About US$220)

    Estimated delivery:
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    Pledge $500 or more

    0 backers Limited (50 left of 50)

    Test Audience - You'll get the Digital Download when it's released, but before that you'll be in our test audience! Once we think we've got a film we're happy with we'll give you a sneak peak (online) and invite your comments. (About US$440)

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $1,000 or more

    2 backers Limited (3 left of 5)

    Associate Producer - You get the Digital Download, and receive an 'Associate Producer' credit, an invitation to the private premiere screening PLUS we'll share early cuts of the film with you for your feedback. (About US$865)

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $1,500 or more

    0 backers Limited (20 left of 20)

    Adidas Competitive Tickling Gear - You get an Adidas tickling outfit (shorts and top) with OFFICIAL BACKER OF COMPETITIVE TICKLING printed on the back. Farrier will also tweet you some tickling tips. You also get the Digital Download, but that’s nothing compared to your sweet Adidas gear! (Adidas is in no way associated with this, they probably don’t even know about it). (About US$1300)

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $5,000 or more

    1 backer Limited (2 left of 3)

    Production Partner - You or your company will receive an 'In Association With' credit in the film's opening, also a 'Producer' or similar credit in the end of the film. Additionally you'll be kept in the loop on production and post-production planning. (About US$4320)

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $8,000

    0 backers Limited (1 left of 1)

    Tickling Match with Farrier - You will get a sweet set of Adidas tickling gear AND get a 30-minute tickling match with Farrier. However we should warn you, we’re highly suspicious of anyone willing to pay this much to tickle or be tickled by David Farrier - we’ll probably assume you’re the Tickle King himself. You have to get yourself to Australasia at least, but Farrier will come to you - within reason. You’ll also get the Digital Download, if that’s important to you. (About US$6915)

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $8,000

    0 backers

    Broadcast Partner - Your business will be credited as 'Broadcast Partner' in the final production. We will also make available to you, with relevant and necessary broadcast rights, footage and material from the production to be re-purposed (with our approval) into your broadcast program or format.

    Please contact us in advance to discuss this if it's of interest. (About US$6915)

    Estimated delivery:

Funding period

- (21 days)