Ray William Johnson
Ray William Johnson
|Alma mater||Columbia University School of General Studies|
|Total views||5.31 billion|
Updated: January 1, 2022
Ray William Johnson (born August 14, 1981) is an American actor, comedian, and internet celebrity, best known for his eponymous YouTube channel and his web series on that channel, Equals Three. In 2013, the channel surpassed 10 million subscribers and had over 2 billion views, making it one of the most watched and subscribed to channels at the time. Johnson left the series in March 2014 but continued to produce it and other web series like Booze Lightyear, Comedians On, and Top 6, the first two of which were later cancelled.
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. He created a television concept that was purchased by FX the same year. He made his live-action acting debut in the indie road film Who's Driving Doug alongside former Breaking Bad star RJ Mitte. In 2015 his production company, Mom & Pop Empire, was reported to be co-producing a documentary with Supergravity Pictures about monopolies in the cable television industry.
Early life and education
Johnson was born and raised in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and attended Norman North High School where he graduated in 1999. He later attended the Columbia University School of General Studies, where he studied history, but didn’t graduate. 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.
Johnson began posting videos to his "Ray William Johnson" channel in April 2009. In 2011, the channel became YouTube's first to reach 5 million subscribers. The channel had also attained nearly 2 billion total views. 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."
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. In November 2012, Johnson founded his own production studio, Equals Three Studios (then known as Runaway Planet), and continued producing Equals Three. Your Favorite Martian series was ended that same month.
In December 2013, Johnson announced that he would be ending Equals Three in the near future to focus on other projects. His last show as host (titled "THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING") was published on March 12, 2014, and was around 14 minutes long. The channel had over 10 million subscribers and 2.6 billion total views at the time of Johnson's departure. The show returned in July 2014 with Robby Motz as host. Motz would depart in July 2015, at which point Kaja Martin, one of Johnson's frequent collaborators, took over as host, but Martin was subsequently replaced by Carlos Santos in December 2015.
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. In 2015, Johnson reported the series had received 10 million views on Facebook.
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.
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 included Booze Lightyear, Top 6, and Comedians On. Booze Lightyear was a scripted sketch comedy web series that featured a variety of different actors often in comedic situations. Johnson appeared on the series' first episode in February 2015. 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. Comedians On premiered in July 2015 and featured a collection of different comedians humorously discussing a chosen topic with Carlos Santos as host. "Comedians On" along with "Booze Lightyear" were eventually cancelled at roughly the same time that Carlos Santos became host of "Equals Three". 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.
Acting and films
Johnson was attached to an indie film project entitled Who's Driving Doug in 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. Who's Driving Doug was released in February 2016. Johnson previously had a small part in Jay & Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie. He appeared in a series of advertisements for DiGiorno pizzas in January 2016, alongside Colleen Ballinger, DeStorm Power, and American football player Clay Matthews III.
Johnson is also the co-creator (with former Equals Three host, Kaja Martin) of the film production company, Mom & Pop Empire. They are currently[when?] 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.
|2009–2014||Equals Three||Host as himself (until 2014)||Also creator and executive producer, formerly writer|
|2010||The Professionals||Stan||Episode: "Special Request"|
|2010||The Annoying Orange||Crabapple||Episode: "Crabapple"|
|2010–2011||Breaking NYC||Himself||66 episodes|
|2011–2012||Breaking Los Angeles||Himself||8 episodes|
|2011–2012||Your Favorite Martian: The Animated Series||Puff (voice)||11 episodes|
|2012||RVC: The Lone Shopping Network||Derek|
|2013||Jay & Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie||Quick Stop Hipster (voice)|
|2013||Riley Rewind||Mr. Osborne||Also creator, director, writer, and executive producer|
|2013–2014||Epic Rap Battles of History||Goku / Boba Fett||2 episodes|
|2014||The Fluffy Movie||Nurse|
|2015||Manson Family Vacation||Executive producer|
|2015||Booze Lightyear||Booze Player||Also creator, writer, and executive producer|
|2015||Comedians On||Himself||Also creator and executive producer|
|2015||Top 6||Executive producer|
|2016||Who's Driving Doug||Scott|
|2016||We Love You||Derrick|
Recognition and awards
Variety magazine called Johnson's scripted web series, Riley Rewind, the 7th best web series of 2013. Johnson was also listed among The Hollywood Reporter's "Comedy Class of 2013." French youtubers Antoine Daniel and Mathieu Sommet have cited Johnson's Equal 3 as their inspiration, respectively for What The Cut !? and Salut les Geeks !.
- "About Ray William Johnson". YouTube.
- Glazer, Emily (September 18, 2015). "The 15 most popular YouTubers in the world". The Record. Retrieved October 27, 2015.
- Humphrey, Michael (June 28, 2011). "Ray William Johnson: =3 Adds Up To Most-Subscribed On YouTube". Forbes. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
- Karnik, Kiran (September 4, 2012). "Given the double-edged sword social media has become, self-regulation by platforms is the best option". The Economic Times. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
- Brouwer, Bree (February 12, 2015). "Ray William Johnson Returns To YouTube With 'How To Get A Date'". Tubefilter. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
- Gutelle, Sam (February 13, 2015). "Ray William Johnson Produces List Show 'Top 6′ On His YouTube Channel". Tubefilter. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
- Gutelle, Sam (July 6, 2015). "New Web Series From Ray William Johnson Offers Comedians' Takes On Snapchat". Tubefilter. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
- Gutelle, Sam (December 12, 2013). "Ray William Johnson's 'Riley Rewind' Arrives On Facebook First". Tubefilter. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
- Wallenstein, Andrew (May 17, 2013). "YouTube Star Ray William Johnson Lands TV Deal". Variety. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
- Spangler, Todd (May 15, 2014). "YouTube Star Ray William Johnson Lands Role in Indie Film 'Who's Driving Doug'". Variety. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
- Spangler, Todd (April 14, 2015). "Supergravity, Ray William Johnson Team on Documentary Blasting Cable 'Monopolies'". Variety. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
- Humphrey, Michael (November 7, 2011). "Maker Studios: The YouTube Savants Talk Channel Expansion". Forbes. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
- Gutelle, Sam (November 27, 2012). "RayWilliamJohnson Starting His Own Studio With Help From Julian Smith". Tubefilter. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
- Dickey, Megan Rose (December 13, 2012). "This YouTube Star Is In The Middle Of A Very Ugly, Public Fight With His Studio". Business Insider. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
- Gutelle, Sam (December 30, 2013). "Ray William Johnson To End '=3′ Sometime In 2014". Tubefilter. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
- Gutelle, Sam (March 13, 2014). "Ray William Johnson Looks For New Host In Last Episode Of '=3′". Tubefilter. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
- Cohen, Joshua (March 10, 2014). "Ray William Johnson Sets A March 12, 2014 End Date For '=3'". Tubefilter. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
- Gutelle, Sam (July 3, 2014). "Ray William Johnson's '=3′ To Return On July 15th With New Host". Tubefilter. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
- Spangler, Todd (July 15, 2014). "YouTube Star Ray William Johnson Picks New Host of 'Equals Three,' Robby Motz (Exclusive)". Variety. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
- Gutelle, Sam (July 28, 2015). "Kaja Martin Takes Over As Host Of Ray William Johnson's '=3'". Tubefilter. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
- "Ray William Johnson Settles in Suit Against Jukin Media; Juror Confirms 40 of 40 Videos Ruled Not Fair Use". The Wrap. March 4, 2016. Retrieved January 18, 2019.
- "Ray William Johnson and his Equals Three series are everything that's great about YouTube". Dose.ca. July 18, 2013. Retrieved November 26, 2017.
- Johnson, Ray. "GABE WILLIAM JOHNSON (2011)". youtube.com. Retrieved February 16, 2020.
- "Sarah Silverman Co-Hosts '=3', Reacts To 9-Year-Old Philosopher (VIDEO)". Huffington Post. April 10, 2013. Retrieved November 26, 2017.
- Eordogh, Fruzsina (December 24, 2013). "Top 10 Web Series of 2013". Variety. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
- Brouwer, Bree (February 13, 2015). "YouTuber Ray William Johnson is back with 'How to Get a Date'". The Daily Dot. Retrieved November 26, 2016.
- Goldberg, Lesley (May 17, 2013). "YouTube Breakout Ray William Johnson Sells Comedy to FX (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
- Linden, Sheri (February 25, 2016). "Review 'Who's Driving Doug' is a bumpy, cliche-filled trip to Vegas". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 26, 2017.
- Jaworski, Michelle (May 14, 2014). "'Breaking Bad' and YouTube stars align in 'Who's Driving Doug'". The Daily Dot. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
- "Who's Driving Doug". Who's Driving Doug?. Archived from the original on September 16, 2015. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
- "Who's Driving Doug". www.imdb.com. IMDb. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
- Gutelle, Sam (January 20, 2016). "Social Media Stars DeStorm, Colleen [Ballinger] Evans, Ray William Johnson Make Super Bowl Videos With DiGiorno". Tubefilter. Retrieved January 21, 2016.
- Gutelle, Sam (April 14, 2015). "Ray William Johnson, Supergravity Pictures Partner For Documentary Film". Tubefilter. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
- Setoodeh, Ramin (March 17, 2015). "Netflix Acquires 'Manson Family Vacation' at SXSW (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
- "The Hollywood Reporter Unveils Comedy Class of 2013". The Hollywood Reporter. May 1, 2013. Retrieved August 27, 2015.