By Vee Benard
Billy Schlosser, Lisa Michaelis Schlosser and their daughter Emily are more than just your average family — collectively known as “Laughing Pizza,” the musical trio specializes in creating family-friendly pop hits for kids between the ages of 4 and 15. As part of their recent cross-country tour, Laughing Pizza will be hosting a “Pajama Pizza Party” on Friday, August 6, at the Children’s Museum of the East End in Bridgehampton.
According to Lisa, the lead vocalist for Laughing Pizza, the group’s name derives from “two things that are best when shared…Laughing and pizza are things we enjoy as families, and this ties in with the message of our music.”
Laughing Pizza took root in the early 1990s, when both Lisa and Billy were songwriters and performers in the indie rock scene in New York. After taking up positions as songwriters for Warner/Chappell, one of the major American music publishing companies, they were asked if they ever wrote songs for kids.
“Of course we said yes,” laughed Lisa, “we always say yes.” Fortunately, this transition into the unfamiliar territory of kids pop music proved to be smoother than predicted.
“We tried it, and it happened so easily for us,” explained Lisa, “…we just wrote our usual pop songs, but made them ‘younger.’” And so Lisa and Billy became the songwriters for a young Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, as well as for a handful of shows on Cartoon Network.
It was the birth of their daughter Emily in 1995, however, and her entry into the musical world in the early 2000’s, that really pushed Lisa and Billy to form Laughing Pizza.
“We had little Emily,” Lisa explained, “and yet there was such a deficit of fun pop music that we could share together as a family. We really did this for her. It was a completely organic thing.”
And now, at age 15, Emily has joined the ranks of the very musical Schlosser family as a fully collaborative songwriter and musician in Laughing Pizza, playing five instruments and singing backup vocals in the band, which has achieved wide critical acclaim since its formation in 2002.
Laughing Pizza is now a regular fixture of PBS and has had appearances on the Today Show, CNN, NY1 and CBS. In addition, the Schlosser family has performed at the White House two years in a row—most recently alongside teen pop-sensations Miley Cyrus (a.k.a. “Hannah Montana”) and the Jonas Brothers.
Despite the stigma that might come along with being a “kid-friendly” band, Laughing Pizza has a base in classical music training—both Lisa and Billy are award-winning songwriters and former music teachers who attended Juilliard and Berklee (respectively) in their younger years. Their knowledge of the technical aspects of music making provide depth and versatility to their songs.
It is Emily’s musical aptitude, however, that was the most shocking. Unlike her parents, she was never classically trained, but rather learned music, as Lisa explained, “by feel.”
“She has just been adding more and more to the group,” Lisa beamed. “She is songwriting, rapping and she’s an amazing drummer…it’s just a natural thing for her.”
Laughing Pizza’s songs, which seek to “bridge the gap from Barney to Britney,” aim to be something for the entire family to enjoy. Though their target audience for their television appearances lies within the 4 and 9 year-old range, Laughing Pizza draws diverse crowds for their live performances.
“One of our favorite compliments,” Lisa shared, “is when people say ‘I listen to your music even when our kids aren’t around.’”
“The media is so segmented,” she said. “There is programming for the teeny-weenies and then the tweens, but then there is this weird empty area where kid’s aren’t being served.” She explained that this pushes this between-stages audience bracket to either stoop down to less mature programming or to grow up at too fast a rate.
Laughing Pizza’s music is not the only vehicle through which the Schlosser family promotes the benefits of living and working as a family. Indeed, their very projection as a real-life mom, dad and daughter that “plays and stays together” is a healthy image for kids of all ages.
“It is heaven,” said Lisa of working with her husband and daughter. “It is unbelievable that we get to have this life together as a family. I know it sounds incredibly corny but we are just so fortunate—the most amazing part of this amazing experience is being together.”
The Pizza Pajama Party on August 6 will mark Laughing Pizza’s third collaboration with the Children’s Museum of the East End (CMEE). The evening will consist of a live concert, featuring six dancers from The Broadway Dance Center in New York, who will be performing the choreography of Stacey Webster (with some help by Lisa and Emily), as well as a pizza dinner. Pajamas are optional, and “grownups” are invited to participate in the festivities.
“We absolutely love the people at the museum,” said Lisa, who is eagerly looking forward to Friday’s event. “We view the Hamptons as our home away from home.”
Laughing Pizza will perform this Friday, August 6, at 6 p.m. at the Children’s Museum of the East End, 376 Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike, Bridgehampton. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at door. For more information call CMEE at 537-8250.