Comedy sheds light on the struggles of low-income AIDS patients

Sara Varela


A comedy about AIDS. 

Sounds counterintuitive but for Tom E. Brown, writer and director of Pushing Dead, it made perfect sense.

Tired of the typical movies about AIDS, with hospitals as the main location and a whole lot of IV bags, and sick-looking people, Brown was longing for something more relatable to the majority of AIDS patients.

“I wanted to make a different kind of AIDS movie, a comedy – in which nobody dies,” he says.

Brown has been HIV positive for most of his life, and even though he clarifies that the movie is not a reflection of his life, he admits the use of personal elements.

Pushing Dead follows the story of struggling writer Dan Schauble, who has been HIV positive for the majority of his life, who falls out of the coverage of his insurance and is left with the decision of going without his meds or come up with over $3,000 to pay for them.

Portraying Schauble’s struggle as a minor inconvenience rather than a full-on emergency, allows Brown to introduce comedy into a situation that for many patients would be a full-blown crisis.

Through the movie, Brown exposes the ridiculous healthcare system in America that forces many low-income patients to struggle every time they must refill their prescriptions.

“The healthcare system in the US has improved in recent years, but huge numbers of low-income people across the country are still forced to pay thousands of dollars for their meds or go without them,” said Brown.

“With current threats to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the film is more topical than ever.”

And Brown’s honest and relatable film earned an audience award at the Frameline LGBTQ film festival.

Although the movie received mostly negative reviews from critics, the movie is one that many, even those HIV negative, would enjoy.

It’s a heartwarming comedy that shows us the importance of a support system, friends, and an internal sense of humor to cope with the most difficult situations, even those that can be life-and-death.