If you were a frequent YouTube user five to six years ago, you’re probably familiar with the name Ray William Johnson. He was arguably the biggest channel on YouTube at the time, and he had amassed quite the cult following. In a format that was relatively new at the time, Johnson would select a few different viral videos and react to them, offering up witty commentary and quips. He was one of the first to create these kinds of videos, which would go on to become one of the most popular YouTube video formats. But what is he doing now?
Ray William Johnson’s Early Life
Ray William Johnson was born in 1981, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He graduated from Norman North High School in 1999, and he went on to attend college. Ray was able to get into the very prestigious Columbia University, where he studied history. He was on quite the standard (albeit ambitious) life track, at the time. After he completed his undergraduate studies, he intended on studying for a law degree. However, during his time in college, Ray took on a hobby. He made small video blogs, which he posted on a personal channel that has since been deleted. Although he must have enjoyed making the videos, he didn’t seem to be able to obtain a whole lot of attention. However, within a couple of years, that all changed.
Ray William Johnson’s Rise to Fame
Starting in 2009, Ray started to publish a brand new series to a new YouTube channel. The series was called =3, and it involved reacting to and offering commentary in regards to different viral videos. He made these reaction videos from his apartment, which gave them a certain amount of charm that viewers found themselves drawn to. Although reaction videos are pretty dime-a-dozen on YouTube today, that wasn’t really the case in 2009. One could argue that =3 largely pioneered this genre of video. The videos steadily increased in popularity until the channel reached its peak in 2011, when Ray William Johnson became the first YouTube channel to reach 5 million subscribers. (This may not seem like much today, where a lot of popular YouTube channels have over 10 million subscribers, but it was quite the feat at the time.)
From there, though, things only seemed to tumble downhill. Ray signed a contract with Maker Studios, which was a YouTube channel network that would allow him to create videos on set, and work with a generally higher budget. He took advantage of this opportunity and started working on a side channel called Your Favorite Martian, which became one of the most popular animated rap/parody channels on YouTube. From the outside looking in, things seemed to be going pretty well. However, in 2012, Ray announced that he was leaving Maker Studios, citing issues with upper management with regards to contract negotiation. After cutting ties with the network, he founded his own production company called Equals Three Studios, which would allow him to continue creating his reaction videos. However, he was forced to give up Your Favorite Martian, which may have contributed to his decline in popularity.
Ray William Johnson’s Decline
By 2013, Ray William Johnson kind of dropped off of the Internet’s radar when he announced that he was ending his run as host of =3. True to his word, he made his final video for =3 in March of 2014. From there, the channel lost a significant amount of public support. A few new hosts were brought on to the channel, and they hoped to capture the original charm of the original videos. However, they never seemed to get it just right. The channel’s popularity continued to tumble, and by this time, several new reaction channels were starting to make a new for themselves. =3 had seemed to have lost everything that made it special before. Still, it has maintained a decent amount of popularity and growth. The channel has 10 million subscribers today, but that isn’t much when you consider that some of the most popular channels have over 20 million.
From there, Ray William Johnson went on to work more subtly in the YouTube industry. Although he no longer worked with the =3 series, he continued to produce more series for Equals Three Studios, like Booze Lightyear and Top 6. He also flexed his acting muscles in a few independent productions, from DiGorno pizza commercials to full-fledged films like Who’s Driving Doug. However, although Ray William Johnson definitely kept himself busy, he sort of fell out of the public eye. He went from regularly broadcasting himself to millions of subscribers to working primarily behind the scenes, which may have been concerning for some of his fans. So, that begs the question: What’s Ray William Johnson doing today?
What’s Ray William Johnson Doing Now In 2023?
Ray is still active on YouTube. In fact, he posts a new video almost every day. Instead of regular-length videos, however, he seems to have switched his focus to YouTube shorts. Still, they’re racking up millions of hits. As of 2023, he has over 12.7 million subscribers and 6.6 billion combined views across his views.
He has also released a number of songs. In 2018, he released an album titled, Fat Damon, which consisted of three songs- “Conspiracy Theory Guy (ft. Wax)”, “My Life Is Dope,” and “Fred Astaire.” He also created a virtual band called The Upside Downs, which has released a number of songs including “Ugly 8”, “Pixar Mom 6”, “Fred Astaire 1”, “Yellow 13”, “Silent Mode 11”, and “Kung Fu in the Afterlife 15.” More recently, they came out with the song, “Everything Is Bullshit 12 (Evolved Version)”, which has since been streamed more than 16,000 times on YouTube (Ray posts them to his regular channel).
That’s not all, he also revived his comedic animated music video series, Your Favorite Martian earlier this year. The first “episode” of the third season “Orphan Tears: Part 2” was released on June 1, 2022, and since then, it has received more than 3 million views. Three other “episodes” have since been released including “Orphan Tears Part 3”, “Verified”, and Uno Reverse.” For those who are interested, they can all be found on his Your Favorite Martian channel, which as of 2023, has more than 2.64 million subscribers.
He’s also the founder of a production company called Mom & Pop Empire. They had previously released a film called Manson Family Vacation, which premiered in 2015; its distribution rights were later bought by Netflix. The last that we’d heard, they were working on two new films, including a movie version of his web series, Booze Lightyear.
Good article. I’ve followed =3 since its early days and sort of consider myself a fan of RWJ. Sadly, though, the new hosts were just awfully uninteresting to watch to and so I’ve recently unsubscribed from his channel. Who knows, maybe this position (out of the public eye but still producing new content) was just what Ray wanted.
Man, back in middle school I was soooo in love with his show. I watched EVERY new episode. However, a little after the YFM series, he started to change, and you could see it. He became weird like he was trying too hard, so I just stopped watching, and =3 officially died when he left. All of the breaking NYC are down, too. As for Ray himself, he did change. A LOT.
He just grew up, that happens.
First YouTuber ive seen
I used to really enjoy =3 and I’m glad that Ray is still out there somewhere. After Ray left the show, things started to downhill. Robby wasn’t as good as Ray, and in the beginning he got something, but near the end of his hosting, he got really great at it. After Robbie left, I unsubbed from =3 and didn’t really look back. Ever since then, if I have nothing to do, I’ll go watch 3 or 4 videos of Ray and Robbie just to get a little laugh at a channel that used to be perfect.
I want this dude back, he basically made my damn childhood when he was making YFM videos. I loved them, but I swear companies can´t ever be fair with negotiations. The same exact thing happens to The Boondocks, where McGruder had to give it up because Adult Swim wanted to be idiots and censor out basically his visual intake of the world. I will say this, to upcoming future companies, please be reasonable, if you have something like YFM videos or boondocks type trend, keep it. This was why people were so excited to actually watch something like this, even if it bent the law a little bit. Please if something like this comes up from the future, and its like this, keep it because I love things like this.
I followed this man for years through my early 20s. I’m nearly 30 now, how time had flown. He was the only subscription that I had for years. I know I’m pretty late to jump on this post, but damn I really miss this show.
Ray is a stinking idiot. he gave up being one of the top youtuber’s out there to direct youtube video’s and making crap “movie’s”. he could have been worth millions if he would have kept making video’s. heck he could have done both just needed to set aside a couple hour’s a week to making =3 episodes but no you stinking lazy son of a fool. my love of the show somehow turned to anger.
Wow, what an entitled piece of something.
Loved Ray, Loved Robbie, Loved Kaja, Loved Carlos. Loved all the guest hosts too. Such a fun show.
Loved this guy back in the day. We miss you Ray.
I was always wondering what the heck happened to Ray William Johnson? Admittedly, I did watch his videos and even enjoyed them. However, for some odd reason, he just feel from grace. I don’t hear his name much anymore.
I miss the =3 show
he really screwed up by leaving =3, because the year he left, youtubers kinda exploded with the whole Team Internet hasthtag. he left at the wrong time and is practically irrelevant now… dumb move