Laughing Pizza doesn’t come with pepperoni or sausage. Instead, the name refers to a family musical group that serves up a flavorful blend of pop, country and Motown-style tunes. The key ingredients of Laughing Pizza (ToyShow) are Billy Schlosser, his wife, Lisa Michaelis, and their 9-year-old daughter, Emily.
“We’re a family that performs and writes songs together – sort of like a real-life Partridge Family,” Schlosser says.
The group offers an ever-expanding library of CDs, DVDs and videos aimed at a largely overlooked market – 4 to 9 year olds, whom Schlosser describes as “too old for Barney but too young for Britney.” The bouncy melodies and lyrics appeal to kids and their parents by celebrating simple family pleasures – like playing games, making breakfast together or simply enjoying each other’s company.
Many of the songs have underlying messages that promote such values as tolerance and understanding. As a result of these positive values, Laughing Pizza has gained five consecutive Parents’ Choice Awards and two iParenting Media’s 2004 Back to School Awards. However, Schlosser stresses that the messages are subtly presented.
“We’re portraying family values without being too preachy,” he says. “The attitude of people who watch us is, ‘Gee, aren’t they having fun?’”
Schlosser and Michaelis founded Laughing Pizza in 2002, bringing to the venture a long list of performing and songwriting credits in the pop music field. Michaelis achieved success as a singer and actress both on- and off-Broadway while her husband has had a diverse career as a songwriter, musician and record producer, working with such artists as Steely Dan.
They met during an appearance on “Star Search” and have been together ever since. Collaboratively, they’ve written songs for the Olsen Twins in their pre-teen heyday, penned tunes for the Cartoon Network and composed a No. 1 Billboard dance tune.
As a departure from his music career, Schlosser spent seven years working as a technology consultant. His global travels on behalf of Fortune 500 companies kept him apart from his family for much of the time.
On Sept. 11, 2001, he landed in Boston just as the terrorist attack began to unfold in New York City. He spent five days trying to get home to his family in Atlanta. The impact of that separation was profound.
“We decided to change our lives and do something positive at the same time,” Schlosser notes. “The result is this company, which we dedicate to making the world a better place in our own small way.”
The couple’s creative talents and Schlosser’s business experience meshed together in the launch of Laughing Pizza, with young Emily getting a chance to shine as a budding singer and musician. Initially, the family has promoted its musical products through live appearances, local television performances and a Web site. While Laughing Pizza’s reach until now has been limited, that is about to change.
Coming out in late summer is a two-disk DVD/CD, “Back to School,” which will be available at major bookstore chains and CD stores.
“We’re working with a distributor who will put us in major markets all over the country,” Schlosser reports. “We feel that this will propel us to the next level.”
Schlosser is also optimistic that Laughing Pizza can find a spot in major toy stores. “CDs and DVDs are becoming more of a thing in toy stores,” he says. “The biggest thing we’ve had to fight against is the perception that children’s music doesn’t make money [for retailers], but we’ve seen precedent with Barney, The Wiggles and Baby Einstein.”
For the future, Laughing Pizza is looking to expand beyond the CD, DVD and video market. “We have a vision of creating a lifestyle brand that includes games, books, toys, dolls and even our own clothing line,” says Schlosser.
Oh, and about that name – Laughing Pizza. It’s derived from the group’s concept of family.
“We came up with the words laughing and pizza because those are two things that are best when shared,” Schlosser explains.