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‘Ultimately we’ll never know all the things that made David D’Amato the man he was’

News broke overnight that David D’Amato, the antagonist of David Farrier and Dylan Reeve’s Tickled documentary, has died. The film-makers have issued a plea for respect over his passing

The star of Tickled is David Farrier, the dogged and dazed New Zealand journalist who started pulling a thread online and found it attached to an array of characters, some fictional, some less so. But the globe-spanning documentary about the murky and exploitative world of so-called ‘competitive tickling’ only exists because of David D’Amato.

He’s barely seen in the documentary, yet haunts its every frame – a kind of tragic super villain, hurling legal threats and stand-ins at Farrier and co-director Reeve at every opportunity. Still, for all his undoubtedly harmful behaviour, he also emerges as a deeply troubled character. News broke today that he has died, in circumstances which remain unclear. The New York Times has published an obituary, and Farrier and Reeve issued a moving statement, which we reprint below:

Statement on Death of David D’Amato

We are incredibly sad to learn that David P D’Amato, the subject of Tickled, has passed away.

We don’t know any specific details about his death at this time.

David D’Amato has been a part of our lives for around three years now – a very unusual three years – and despite the various lawsuits he brought against us, this news is something that brings us no joy, and has hit us pretty hard.

We mostly knew David through talking to those he had interacted with online over the last 20 years, and people that he had been close to.

We only met him twice; Once in Garden City, and another time when he turned up to a screening of the documentary in Los Angeles. We met a man who came out swinging, so to speak – threatening more lawsuits, while at the same time commenting that he enjoyed certain elements of the film. It seems to us that underneath it all, he did have a certain sense of humor.

It is also clear that he had certain troubles, and those are troubles that we hoped he would come to terms with at some point.

While making Tickled we always thought it was important to portray David D’Amato not just as an online bully, but as a person. That is why the closing minutes of Tickled are so important to us – an insight into D’Amato, the person. Ultimately we’ll never know all the things that made David the man he was. Like all of us, he was complex and complicated.

So we ask you to keep in mind that while David appears to have lived a fairly solitary life, he did have friends and family members. We ask that in comments online, and out there in the real world, you treat this information, and this man’s passing, with respect.

David Farrier & Dylan Reeve


D’Amato speaking with Dylan Reeve in a scene from the Tickle King

The Tickle King, a follow up mini-documentary which features an extraordinary encounter with D’Amato, plays on the Rialto channel in New Zealand on March 29 at 8.05pm

Read more of The Spinoff’s coverage of the Tickled phenomenon here