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Ray William Johnson

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Ray William Johnson
Born (1981-08-14) August 14, 1981 (age 34)
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, U.S.
Other names RWJ
Occupation Video blogger, producer, actor
Years active 2007–present

Ray William Johnson (born August 14, 1981) is an American video blogger, producer, and actor best known for his YouTube series Equals Three, in which he provided commentary on viral videos.[1][2] Many of the videos featured on Equals Three are noted to have received an additional boost of popularity.[3][4][5][6][7] In February 2011, one industry publication noted that Johnson had six of the top 20 most watched videos of the month.[8] In early September 2012, Johnson had accumulated nearly two billion video views.[9] As of March 2015, his YouTube channel had more than 12 million subscribers, and more than two billion video views.[10] On March 9, 2014 he announced that the last episode of Equals Three with himself as the host would air on March 12, 2014. The show later returned on July 16, 2014 hosted by Robby Motz, followed by Kaja Martin on July 28, 2015.

Early life

Johnson was born and raised in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.[11][12][13] He graduated from Norman North High School in 1999.[13] In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Johnson says he studied at Columbia University as a history major,[13] while his profile adds he was preparing to study law.[11]


While at Columbia, Johnson started his formatted show, Equals Three, as a way to combine two popular video styles: watching viral videos and video bloggers.[1] In Equals Three, Johnson reviewed, criticized, and added commentary to some of the internet's latest viral videos.[2] Equals Three episodes are usually uploaded to his channel every Tuesday. Equals Three is on one of the most subscribed channels on YouTube, having more than 12 million subscribers in March 2015, and has been recognized by Guinness World Records.[1][14][15] Episodes can consistently obtain several million views within a week. Johnson has obtained celebrity guests on Equals Three, including Robin Williams,[16] Sarah Silverman,[17] Gabriel Iglesias,[18] Kal Penn,[19] Margaret Cho,[20] Bobby Lee,[21] T.J. Miller,[22] Garfunkel and Oates,[23] John Cho,[19] Jason Biggs,[24] Kevin Smith,[25] Andy Milonakis,[26] Timothy De La Ghetto,[27] RZA,[28] and KassemG.[29]

In October 2012, Johnson moved Equals Three away from Maker Studios, a multi channel YouTube network he had hired to help produce the show. He had announced his departure in an episode of Equals Three.[30] Johnson has stated that he left Maker Studios due to the pressure the company put on him into signing a new contract. Johnson released images of the contract, which showed Maker Studios wanted a 40% share of his online channel's AdSense revenue, and 50% of the intellectual property rights of his show Equals Three. He stated that they were using "thuggish tactics" to pressure him into signing the contract, one of which was allegedly leveraging his AdSense account for the intellectual property rights to YourFavoriteMartian. Johnson also claimed that Maker Studios CEO, Danny Zappin, is a convicted felon, a charge which Zappin later publicly admitted to.[31][32][33][34][35]


Your Favorite Martian (2011–12)

"Your Favorite Martian" redirects here. For the American sitcom, see My Favorite Martian.

In January 2011, Johnson launched a collaborative YouTube channel called "YourFavoriteMartian" (YFM), which features animated music videos.[36] The songs are performed by a virtual band of four fictional cartoon characters: PuffPuff Humbert (vocals, voiced by Johnson), DeeJay (turntables), Axel Chains (drums), and Benatar (vocals, guitar/keytar/bass/piano, voiced by Jesse Cale).[37] Johnson writes lyrics, raps, sings, composes beats, and sometimes collaborates with other musicians to produce the songs. The channel was the top music channel on YouTube for a time and sold 1.2 million units on iTunes.[38]

YFM has released 31 original songs, 2 remixes of original songs, 1 remix of another artist's song, 1 mashup, and 8 covers through the channel. As of March 2013, the channel has over 2.0 million subscribers, and over 482 million video views.[39][40] In November 2012, Ray announced that the YFM project "has been retired".[41]


In May 2013, Johnson announced he signed a deal to produce a sitcom for the American television network FX.[42][43] The show is a comedy based on the life of the YouTube star. The script is to be written by Mike Gagerman and Andrew Waller and executive produced by Dave Becky and Troy Zien.[44]

Riley Rewind (2013)

On December 12, 2013, Johnson released a 5-part web series titled Riley Rewind, which he directed and starred in. It is the story of a high school student who has the ability to rewind time. After the suicide of another student at her school, she attempts to change time and save her life.[45] It was initially launched on Facebook where it got an unprecedented 10 million views before hitting YouTube,[38] and currently has 12 million views on YouTube itself.[46] The series was listed as one of Variety's Top Ten Webseries of 2013. The publication praised his work saying, "The writing, acting, special effects and original music make this the best thing he's done to date."[47] The series is available on Netflix and Amazon Instant Video.[48][49]

Booze Lightyear, Top 6, and Comedians On (2015–present)

In February 2015, Johnson launched two new weekly web series called Booze Lightyear, Top 6, and Comedians On. Booze Lightyear is a sketch comedy series that stars Johnson, and fellow comedians Kaja Martin, Kelly Landry, Carlos Santos, Julianne Medcraft and Luis Jimenez. And Top 6 is a comedic list shown written and hosted by Kelly Landry. In July 2015, Johnson launched a new comedic web series called Comedians On written and hosted by Carlos Santos.

Equals Three (2008–present)

Equals Three
Equals Three.jpg
Equals Three title card, 2008–12
Genre Comedy
Created by Ray William Johnson
Written by Ray William Johnson
Joe Hanson (2012–14)
Kelly Landry (2014–present)
Robby Motz (2014–present)
Directed by Brandon Perna (2011–12)
Justin Johns (2012–14)
Dan Ast (2014–15)
Justin Marra (2014–present)
Presented by Ray William Johnson (2008–14)
Guest Hosts (2009–12)
Robby Motz (2014–July 21, 2015)
Kaja Martin (July 28, 2015-current)
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes 215
Executive producer(s) Ray William Johnson
Kaja Martin
Editor(s) Brandon Perna (2011–12)
Justin Johns (2012–14)
Dan Ast (2014–15)
Justin Marra (2014–present)
Running time 3–6 minutes
Production company(s) Maker Studios (2008–12)
Runaway Planet (2012–present)
Original release Original series:
April 17, 2009 (2009-04-17) – March 12, 2014 (2014-03-12)
Revived series:
July 16, 2014 (2014-07-16) - present
External links

Equals Three, sometimes stylised as =3, is a web series on YouTube that was created and written by internet star Ray William Johnson in 2009. It is well known for being the most watched web series on YouTube, at its peak each episode sees between 2–5 million views after about a week, some going beyond that. Overall, the series has amassed over one billion video views. Johnson first started filming the show from his college dorm room and uploading it to his channel, RayWilliamJohnson, which as of April 2015 has over 10 million subscribers. The show has since moved on to a studio with a professional crew.

In the show, the host reviews and analyses three viral videos from across the Internet and includes jokes referring to those videos. The show enjoyed the peak of its success around 2011–2013 but has since dropped due to Ray's retirement as host and the rise of other YouTubers such as Pewdiepie and Smosh.

In early 2014, Johnson stated that he would retire Equals Three sometime later in the year.[50] In the episode entitled "Thank You For Everything", Johnson stated that due to negative reactions from the show's planned retirement, he would re-launch the show with a different host. After a couple of months, Johnson cast twenty-year-old Robby Motz as the new host.

RWJ period (2009–2014)

The first Equals Three video visible on the RayWilliamJohnson channel was called Kick His @ss. The video did not, of course, feature the famous graphic backdrop. The videos were coming out when there weren't many YouTubers around. The only other noteworthy YouTubers around were Fred, Smosh and Nigahiga.

Equals Three grew into the most watched web-series on the Internet with Johnson eventually joining major Internet network Maker Studios. His videos became more professional as he acquired a crew. Despite this, gaining a lot of popularity off of other people's videos became a major criticism of the show.

Around late 2011 the channel was taken down by YouTube. Some say this was due to alleged copyright infringement[51] but, given that he had recently announced his earnings, which is against the AdSense and YouTube Terms of Service, it was more likely because of that. The channel was shortly put back up and the show continued.

In late 2012, more controversy stirred up. This time it was concerning Johnson and Maker Studios. Johnson announced he was leaving Maker as they were using "thuggish tactics" to pressure him into signing a deal with them that would give them 40% of the AdSense revenue and half of the show's rights.[52][53] His departure from Maker also saw the end of his popular music project Your Favorite Martian.

Around late December 2013, Johnson announced on Facebook, and later in a YouTube video in early 2014 (which has since been deleted from his channel), that he would end the series later on in the year as he was no longer enjoying it as much as he used to. The announcement on Facebook and YouTube triggered mixed reception from fans. However, in the final episode hosted by him, titled Thank You For Everything, he announced the show would carry on but with a new host. He shut the show down for a few months while he cast the new host. Johnson has been able to leverage his popularity to secure several celebrity guests on Equals Three, including Robin Williams,[16] Gabriel Iglesias,[18] Kal Penn,[19] Margaret Cho,[20] Bobby Lee,[21] T.J. Miller,[22] Garfunkel and Oates,[23] John Cho,[19] Jason Biggs,[24] Kevin Smith,[25] Andy Milonakis,[26] Timothy De La Ghetto,[27] RZA,[28] and KassemG.[29]

Motz period (2014–2015)

On 16 July 2014, the show restarted with the new host, Robby Motz.[54]

On the episode of Equals Three posted on July 3, 2015, Motz announced that he was ending his run as host of the show to pursue other projects and that a new host would be named soon.[55] The episode on which he made his announcement also happened to be his 100th as the show's host. A special bonus episode of the show was posted on July 22 in which the cast of Booze Lightyear were the hosts. Near the end of the episode, Johnson asked viewers of the episode to comment on which of the cast members they felt should become Motz's replacement as host of Equals Three via social media and YouTube, however stating that he was not in the running seeing as he had retired from hosting to focus on his other side projects. Motz's run officially ended with the episode posted on July 24, 2015.[56]

Martin period (2015–present)

On July 28, 2015 the episode of the show posted revealed that executive producer and Booze Lightyear cast member Kaja Martin was officially named the new permanent host of Equals Three.[57] The episode was not met well, receiving over 68k dislikes against 41k likes as of 31st July 2015. This is mainly due to the fact that Martin was not the highest requested new host in one of Johnson's previous videos.


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