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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.
Years active 2007–present

Ray William Johnson (born August 14, 1981) is an American actor, comedian, producer, and writer, who is perhaps best known for his YouTube channel, Ray William Johnson, and his web series on that channel, Equals Three. By 2012, the channel had earned nearly two billion views and 5.6 million subscribers, making it the most viewed channel on YouTube at the time.[1][2][3] Johnson left the series in March 2014, but continues to produce it and other web series like Booze Lightyear, Comedians On, and Top 6.[4][5][6][7]

Toward the end of his tenure at Equals Three, Johnson began branching out into other mediums. His first scripted web series, Riley Rewind, premiered on Facebook in 2013.[8] He created a television concept that was purchased by FX also in 2013.[9] He is also set to make his live-action acting debut in an upcoming indie road film called Who's Driving Doug? alongside former Breaking Bad star, RJ Mitte.[10] Additionally, his production company, Mom & Pop Empires, is co-producing a documentary with Supergravity Pictures about monopolies in the cable television industry.[11]

Early life and education

Johnson was born and raised in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He graduated from Norman North High School in 1999. From there, he went on to Columbia University where he studied history.[1] His goal was to later earn a law degree after completing his undergraduate studies. He began posting videos on YouTube during college. These videos were standard video blogs that Johnson published on a now-deleted channel. These early videos garnered a following of around 30 people.[2]


Equals Three

Johnson began posting videos to his "Ray William Johnson" channel in April 2009. The Equals Three series (often stylized, =3) featured Johnson adding commentary and jokes to viral videos. In 2011, the channel became YouTube's first to reach 5 million subscribers.[2] The channel had also attained nearly 2 billion total views.[1] Originally, Johnson produced videos out of his New York City apartment, but, in 2011, he signed a deal with Maker Studios to produce videos on set in Culver City, California. While at Maker Studios, Johnson produced a Spanish-language version of the series, Igual a Tres, and also produced a series of comedic animated music videos on a side channel called "Your Favorite Martian."[2][12]

In October 2012, Johnson announced that he would be leaving Maker Studios, contending that they had been pressuring him to sign a new contract that limited his access to his AdSense account and would reportedly take 40% of his earnings from the series. The contract also would have required Johnson to give up 50% of his intellectual property rights to the show and his other animated web project, Your Favorite Martian.[13][14][15] In November 2012, Johnson founded his own production studio, Equals Three Studios, and continued producing Equals Three. Your Favorite Martian was ended in that same month.[13] An album featuring Your Favorite Martian songs was released and sold around 1.2 million copies.[4]

In December 2013, Johnson announced that he would be ending Equals Three in the near future to focus on other projects.[16] His last show as host (titled "THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING") was published on March 12, 2014 and was around 14 minutes long.[4] The channel had over 10 million subscribers and 2.6 billion total views at the time of Johnson's departure.[17] The show returned in July 2014 with Robby Motz as host.[18][19] Motz would depart in July 2015 at which point Kaja Martin, one of Johnson's frequent collaborators, took over as host.[20] During his time as host of the show, the series featured numerous celebrity guests, including Robin Williams,[21] Sarah Silverman,[22] Gabriel Iglesias,[23] Kal Penn,[24] Margaret Cho,[25] Bobby Lee,[26] T.J. Miller,[27] Garfunkel and Oates,[28] John Cho,[24] Jason Biggs,[29] Kevin Smith,[30] Andy Milonakis,[31] Timothy De La Ghetto,[32] RZA,[33] and KassemG.[34]

Scripted series

In December 2013, Johnson debuted his first scripted series, Riley Rewind, which was originally released on Facebook before migrating to YouTube. The series revolved around a teenager with a special time-shifting power. It was released in 5 parts and cumulatively totaled about 50 minutes.[8][35] By March 2014, the series had received 10 million views on Facebook.[4]

Earlier in 2013, Johnson was in talks with FX Networks about a scripted series based on his life. The network gave Johnson a script commitment. The script was to be written by Mike Gagerman and Andrew Waller.[36]

Other "Ray William Johnson" content

Since his departure from Equals Three, Johnson has continued producing comedic series for his main "Ray William Johnson" channel. These series include Booze Lightyear, Top 6, and Comedians On. Booze Lightyear is a scripted sketch comedy web series that features a variety of different actors often in comedic situations. Johnson was on the series' first episode in February 2015.[5] Top 6 is "list show" that is written and hosted by Kelly Landry and discusses 6 items about a given topic each episode. Top 6 also premiered in February 2015.[6] Comedians On premiered in July 2015 and features a collection of different comedians humorously discussing a chosen topic with Carlos Santos as host. All of these shows (including Equals Three itself) are produced by Equals Three Studios. Johnson occasionally appears in these shows and in "update vlogs" on the channel.[7][18]

Acting and films

Johnson has been attached to an indie film project entitled Who's Driving Doug? since May 2014. He was cast in a role as a new driver for a disabled recluse played by former Breaking Bad star, RJ Mitte. The film was written by Michael Carnick, who uses a wheelchair as the result of a rare disorder, and also stars Paloma Kwiatkowski.[37] Who's Driving Doug? is currently in post-production with an expected release date in late 2015 or early 2016.[38][39] Johnson had previously had a small part in Jay & Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie.[10]

Johnson is also the co-creator (with current Equals Three host, Kaja Martin) of the film production company, Mom & Pop Empire. They are currently working on a documentary project seeking to expose cable monopolies. Johnson and Martin are co-producers along with Max Benator and Marc Hustvedt's Supergravity Pictures. Johnson is expected to narrate the film. Mom & Pop Empire had previously co-produced a film called Manson Family Vacation with Mark and Jay Duplass. The film premiered at South by Southwest in 2015 and its distribution rights were purchased by Netflix soon after. Johnson and Martin are also working on a separate film starring Johnson and a long-form movie version of their web series Booze Lightyear as part of Mom & Pop Empire.[11][40][41]

Recognition and awards

Variety magazine called Johnson's scripted web series, Riley Rewind, the 7th best web series of 2013.[35] Johnson was also listed among The Hollywood Reporter‍ '​s "Comedy Class of 2013."[42]


  1. ^ a b c Glazer, Emily (2 February 2012). "Who Is RayWJ? YouTube's Top Star". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d Humphrey, Michael (28 June 2011). "Ray William Johnson: =3 Adds Up To Most-Subscribed On YouTube". Forbes. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  3. ^ Karnik, Kiran (4 September 2012). "Given the double-edged sword social media has become, self-regulation by platforms is the best option". The Economic Times. Retrieved 29 August 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c d Gutelle, Sam (13 March 2014). "Ray William Johnson Looks For New Host In Last Episode Of ‘=3′". Tubefilter. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  5. ^ a b Brouwer, Bree (12 February 2015). "Ray William Johnson Returns To YouTube With ‘How To Get A Date’". Tubefilter. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  6. ^ a b Gutelle, Sam (13 February 2015). "Ray William Johnson Produces List Show ‘Top 6′ On His YouTube Channel". Tubefilter. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  7. ^ a b Gutelle, Sam (6 July 2015). "New Web Series From Ray William Johnson Offers Comedians’ Takes On Snapchat". Tubefilter. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  8. ^ a b Gutelle, Sam (12 December 2013). "Ray William Johnson’s ‘Riley Rewind’ Arrives On Facebook First". Tubefilter. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  9. ^ Wallenstein, Andrew (17 May 2013). "YouTube Star Ray William Johnson Lands TV Deal". Variety. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  10. ^ a b Spangler, Todd (15 May 2014). "YouTube Star Ray William Johnson Lands Role in Indie Film ‘Who’s Driving Doug’". Variety. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  11. ^ a b Spangler, Todd (14 April 2015). "Supergravity, Ray William Johnson Team on Documentary Blasting Cable ‘Monopolies’". Variety. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  12. ^ Humphrey, Michael (7 November 2011). "Maker Studios: The YouTube Savants Talk Channel Expansion". Forbes. Retrieved 29 August 2015. 
  13. ^ a b Gutelle, Sam (27 November 2012). "RayWilliamJohnson Starting His Own Studio With Help From Julian Smith". Tubefilter. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  14. ^ Dickey, Megan Rose (13 December 2012). "This YouTube Star Is In The Middle Of A Very Ugly, Public Fight With His Studio". Business Insider. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  15. ^ Kafka, Peter (12 December 2012). "YouTube Powerhouse Maker Studios Fights With Its Biggest Star. It’s Not Pretty.". All Things Digital. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  16. ^ Gutelle, Sam (30 December 2013). "Ray William Johnson To End ‘=3′ Sometime In 2014". Tubefilter. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  17. ^ Cohen, Joshua (10 March 2014). "Ray William Johnson Sets A March 12, 2014 End Date For ‘=3’". Tubefilter. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  18. ^ a b Gutelle, Sam (3 July 2014). "Ray William Johnson’s ‘=3′ To Return On July 15th With New Host". Tubefilter. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  19. ^ Spangler, Todd (15 July 2014). "YouTube Star Ray William Johnson Picks New Host of ‘Equals Three,’ Robby Motz (Exclusive)". Variety. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  20. ^ Gutelle, Sam (28 July 2015). "Kaja Martin Takes Over As Host Of Ray William Johnson’s ‘=3’". Tubefilter. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  21. ^ Ray William Johnson (November 8, 2011). "SHORT HAIRY GUYS – Ray William Johnson video". YouTube. Retrieved 26 August 2015. 
  22. ^ Ray William Johnson (March 26, 2013). "The Meaning of Life – Ray William Johnson Video". YouTube. Retrieved 26 August 2015. 
  23. ^ Ray William Johnson (November 22, 2011). "SURPRISE? – Ray William Johnson Video". YouTube. Retrieved 26 August 2015. 
  24. ^ a b Ray William Johnson (November 3, 2011). "CHICKEN LADY – Ray William Johnson video". YouTube. Retrieved 26 August 2015. 
  25. ^ =3 - GOOSING! - Ray William Johnson Video. YouTube. November 18, 2011. 
  26. ^ WORLD'S BIGGEST CONDOM - Bobby Lee video. YouTube. March 16, 2012. 
  27. ^ EAT EVERYTHING - T.J. Miller Video. YouTube. January 20, 2012. 
  28. ^ ZEBRA HICKEY - Garfunkel and Oates Video. YouTube. January 17, 2012. 
  29. ^ YOU'RE SO METAL - Ray William Johnson video. YouTube. April 6, 2012. 
  30. ^ Kevin Smith (September 25, 2012). "VIRGINITY ROCKS - Kevin Smith". YouTube. Retrieved 26 August 2015. 
  31. ^ DRUNK CHICK PROOF - Andy Milonakis Video. YouTube. May 18, 2012. 
  32. ^ Timothy Chantarangsu (May 22, 2012). "HOOTER HULA HOOPS – Timothy DeLaGhetto Video". YouTube. Retrieved 26 August 2015. 
  33. ^ Robert Fitzgerald Diggs (September 28, 2012). "UNCLE WANG – RZA". YouTube. Retrieved 26 August 2015. 
  34. ^ Kassem Gharaibeh (January 13, 2012). "HOLE PEOPLE – Kassem G video". YouTube. Retrieved 26 August 2015. 
  35. ^ a b Eordogh, Fruzsina (24 December 2013). "Top 10 Web Series of 2013". Variety. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  36. ^ Goldberg, Lesley (17 May 2013). "YouTube Breakout Ray William Johnson Sells Comedy to FX (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  37. ^ Jaworski, Michelle (14 May 2014). "'Breaking Bad' and YouTube stars align in 'Who's Driving Doug'". The Daily Dot. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  38. ^ "Who's Driving Doug". Who's Driving Doug?. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  39. ^ "Who's Driving Doug". IMDb. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  40. ^ Gutelle, Sam (14 April 2015). "Ray William Johnson, Supergravity Pictures Partner For Documentary Film". Tubefilter. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  41. ^ Setoodeh, Ramin (17 March 2015). "Netflix Acquires ‘Manson Family Vacation’ at SXSW (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  42. ^ "The Hollywood Reporter Unveils Comedy Class of 2013". The Hollywood Reporter. 1 May 2013. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 

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