October 24, 2023 Coverage and Posts, CSA

Pittsburgh City Paper: Brian Pope’s Himbos will whet your appetite with scenes from a sexy “chestaurant”

Brian Pope’s Himbos will whet your appetite with scenes from a sexy “chestaurant”


When playwright Brian Pope first heard about a restaurant called Tallywackers, he knew there was a story in the making. The concept for the now-defunct Dallas, Tex.-based restaurant was an all-male or “reverse” Hooters. Instead of buxom women, scantily-clad men served drinks and “abb-itizers” to ogling diners — a so-called “chestaurant” to match 40 years of breastaurants.

After generating worldwide buzz when it opened in 2015, Tallywackers mysteriously closed after just one year, further piquing Pope’s interest.

“It just was this myth of a place that burned bright and then was gone,” Pope tells Pittsburgh City Paper. “But the idea always kept in my mind … wow, what [was] that like? What were those people thinking who worked there, who [went] there?”

Himbos, premiering at the New Hazlett Theater on Thurs., Oct. 26 for a three-show run, follows the staff at a fictional shirtless restaurant as they “navigate the perils of friendships, romance, and even karaoke,” according to a press release. They play kicks off the New Hazlett’s 2023/2024 Community Supported Art performance series, now in its 11th season, which supports artists developing new work. Pope builds the “saucy service industry dramedy” around a core group of four employees, an homage to characters from his favorite sitcoms including The Golden Girls and Living Single — even Desperate Housewives.

“They all have a type or point of view that they embody… and [there’s] fun and comedy seeing how they bounce off of each other,” he says.

Part of the charm of the play for Pope was playing with contrasts, exploring the line between the universal parts of working as a server at any restaurant, and those unique to working at a gender-flipped Hooters. (Pope notes this isn’t an accurate analog anyway; unlike Hooters, the real-life Tallywackers catered to a broader, more mixed-gender clientele of gay men and straight women.)

One could also draw comparisons to Chippendales, the male striptease revue (and subject of a recent Emmy-nominated miniseries).

“What is this line between a dining experience [versus] a more entertainment, dancer, sex work experience?” Pope asks. “[It’s] certainly more innuendo-laden than other places.”

But for the most part, he tells City Paper “it’s a very traditional dining experience that just has this sort of cherry on top of these guys walking around with not a lot of clothes on.” For example, servers still “do the embarrassing birthday song” overheard at many restaurants, and during his research on Tallywackers, he found kid’s menus and highchairs on offer.

Above all, Pope says, the commonality of any food service work is that it’s grueling and “you can’t really shy away from what it takes to be on your feet, deal with people, and carry around all the food and drinks.”

In discussions with Himbos director Shannon Knapp — a frequent collaborator of Pope’s — they wanted the play to reflect the “rigor” and physical demands of service work, so they created scenes where actors roll silverware, sweep floors, and wipe down tables. Pope also credits the “energy and creativity” of the play’s cast and crew in interpreting the characters and realizing the look and feel of the “raucous” restaurant.

Pope drew inspiration from his own experiences working at the (now also-defunct) Quiznos on Craig Street. Another universal of working in a restaurant borne of long hours and demanding customers, he believes, is found family.

“You just sort of naturally bond with the people that see more than the people in your life. It’s a weird thing,” he says. “You cope together. … You have a language and a set of stories that no one else really understands.”

And then, at the fictional Himbos restaurant, “to also be shirtless on top of that,” Pope adds. “That’s always [an] asterisk, which is very fun.”

Ultimately, he intends for the show to be “joyful and fun and silly.”

“The world is burning,” Pope says. “It’s my hope with all my work to make people laugh and escape for a little bit. I like to bring some light, even if it’s something as random as this.”



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