Arts·Queeries

I Hate People, People Hate Me is the unhinged 'gutter punk odyssey' TV show we all need

Toronto comedians Bobbi Summers and Lily Kazimiera on their hilarious ode to queer misfits, now streaming on CBC Gem.

Toronto comedians Bobbi Summers and Lily Kazimiera on their hilarious ode to queer misfits

Bobbi Summers in I Hate People, People Hate Me.
Bobbi Summers in I Hate People, People Hate Me. (CBC Gem)

Queeries is a column by CBC Arts producer Peter Knegt that queries LGBTQ art, culture and/or identity through a personal lens. 

It has truly been a landmark year for queer storytelling on Canadian television. From Sort Of to The Lake to How To Fail As a Pop Star, we really have been making good on the big gay promise of Schitt's Creek and expanding it in various directions across the LGBTQ spectrum. And that continues with a late-breaking entry into the queer riches of 2023 TV: I Hate People, People Hate Me.

Unquestionably the most unhinged of all the noted series (in the best possible way), I Hate People is the brainchild of musician-turned-comedian Bobbi Summers, who called the show a "gutter punk odyssey" at a special live screening at the Hot Docs Bloor Cinema in Toronto last month.  

"I wanted it to really be like a live-action cartoon," Summers said. "It's very much drawn from personal experience and based on my diaries I kept in my 20s, but I didn't want it to feel too real. I had to take the piss out of it if I was going to go back in time to those situations. So it just had to be perverted and punky and make me laugh. And if I could make myself laugh, I thought maybe I could make other people laugh."

He certainly succeeded at the Bloor Cinema that night, with the audience in hysterics for the entirety of the six episodes that screened (which are now all available to stream on CBC Gem). And it's not hard to see why: I Hate People is exceptionally funny in a way that feels wholly unique to Summers' comedy.

The series stars Summers and his fellow comedian Lily Kazimiera, both in their acting debuts, as two friends navigating their lives as outliers in Toronto's queer community — a community they are perpetually disturbed to find overly commodified and mostly inaccessible. This is notably in contrast, though, to how the two actors feel about the actual Toronto queer comedy scene in which they met.

"I kind of had to try to make it as a comedian, not really by choice, just sort of because I needed a way to express myself," Summers says. "People were just like, 'You should do comedy' and I was like, 'Fine!' But I'm really glad I did it because I felt so welcome in the Toronto comedy clubs. I just never felt like a cool person to be in other spaces. And then I was welcomed into those spaces with open arms by people who are so cool and so inspiring."

One of those people was Kazimiera. 

"Long story short, we met doing standup and then kept in touch over the years and then fell out a little bit because everyone stopped doing standup due the pandemic," Kazimiera says. "And then Bobbi reached out to me one day and was like, 'Hey, can you act? And I was like, 'I don't know, wanna find out?' And then from there, the rest is history."

Bobbi Summers (left) and Lily Kazimiera in I Hate People, People Hate Me.
Bobbi Summers (left) and Lily Kazimiera in I Hate People, People Hate Me. (CBC Gem)

Summers calls Kazimiera "the most intelligent, compassionate person I've ever met in my life."

"It's just so nice being in the company of someone who I'm learning from all the time," he says. "It's really been a privilege. It's just a dark world out there right now. Like, I really can't believe we get to be here and do this and make jokes together."

Kazimiera says that she found witnessing Summers process remarkably inspiring. 

"I had the luxury of watching him this season and it happened incredibly organically and quickly. Like, this season really just fell out of the air," she says. "And any screenwriters in the audience would be infuriated to know how good Bobbi's first drafts are."

"While he was running the show, he would send me a PDF and be like, 'I think this is like the worst thing I've ever written in my life. What do you think?' And it was just fully episode four. He's so gifted that way."

The poster for I Hate People, People Hate Me.
The poster for I Hate People, People Hate Me, created by Eric Kostiuk Williams. (CBC Gem)

Kazimiera says her character Tabitha was already fairly formed when she saw early materials for the show, and she saw an opportunity to do something really important to her as a trans woman.

"We're seeing such a shift in the way trans women are represented," she says. "We have had this breakthrough moment and passed the tipping point and all that. And so, you know, we've ended up onscreen in much greater quantities. But I think there was a residual feeling of something lacking in the ways we were on screen. And now there's this second wave, especially in Canada, with what Bilal [Baig] and Vivek [Shraya] are doing [on Sort Of]."

"We're really starting to see ourselves on screen as we actually live our lives. And so I wanted to use the performance to represent some of the unseen pockets. I wanted her to feel like the most annoying bitch you know on trans Twitter. I wanted her to be that girl and to show what that sensibility is like and what that experience is like. And Bobbi made it so, so easy for me to do that with what he'd developed for her already."

You can watch Bobbi and Lily and all the unseen pockets they both have to offer by streaming I Hate People, People Hate Me on CBC Gem now.

The first season of I Hate People, People Hate Me is now streaming in its entirety on CBC Gem.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Peter Knegt (he/him) is a writer, producer and host for CBC Arts. He writes the LGBTQ-culture column Queeries (winner of the Digital Publishing Award for best digital column in Canada) and hosts and produces the talk series Here & Queer. He's also spearheaded the launch and production of series Canada's a Drag, variety special Queer Pride Inside, and interactive projects Superqueeroes and The 2010s: The Decade Canadian Artists Stopped Saying Sorry. Collectively, these projects have won Knegt four Canadian Screen Awards. Beyond CBC, Knegt is also the filmmaker of numerous short films, the author of the book About Canada: Queer Rights and the host of the monthly film series Queer Cinema Club at Toronto's Paradise Theatre. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter with the same obvious handle: @peterknegt.

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