For early YouTubers, getting a million subscribers was an absolute mountain of a goal for even veteran content creators. Thanks to an increase in online connectivity, today, over twenty-five thousand channels have a million subs– there’s even a channel with over two hundred million subscribers.
Remember when a high-pitched voice and catastrophe were all you needed to make a comedic masterpiece? Or when “that’s what she said” was the absolute peak of humor? We’re looking at you, Michael Scott. Let’s take a look back at seven YouTubers that were famous before YouTube was even in its infancy. Each channel’s most popular video has been attached if you want to take a trip back in time to YouTube circa 2010.
Fred is arguably one of the most iconic early YouTubers. Fred Figglehorn is a character played by Lucas Cruikshank, who was only 13 when he first started doing it. People either instantly loved Fred or began generating an internal hatred for the high-pitched squeaky character. The hype surrounding Fred was pretty intense, and he eventually had an iCarly crossover and got to star in his very own trilogy.
So, where is Lucas Cruikshank now? You may not know it, but Lucas actually came out as gay in 2013, just a year before his last guest appearance as Fred on YouTube. Lucas decided to retire the Fred character after the 2012 TV show was met with abysmal reviews, and the whole project was axed. Lucas chose to cut ties with Nickolodeon and put Fred behind him.
Lucas now has his own personal channel with over 3 million subs where he can be himself and often posts reviews, commentary, and more. It seems his popularity has died down quite a bit, but he still has a loyal fanbase that continues to support him.
It doesn’t get more ‘early Youtubers’ famous than Nigahiga. Ryan Higa created Nigahiga back in 2006 and quickly shot into the spotlight thanks to his funny lip-syncing videos and comedy. You can even go watch the original “How to be Ninja” since it’s still up on his channel. Nothing says peak mid-2000s online comedy like 240p, sliding text intros, and absolute basic camera work.
So, where is Ryan now? Well, he has occasionally uploaded videos to his original channel over the years, but it seems he’s more active on Twitch, where he streams content and occasionally comments on his old work. He was involved in a few different projects over the years between early YouTube and now. You might be surprised to learn that he was even in a K-pop boy band called Boys Generally Asian, a parody of K-pop and the famous female group Girls Generation.
3. Ray William Johnson
If you don’t remember the name Ray William Johnson, you might remember a web show he hosted called Equals Three. This show would almost always feature funny videos that were circulating the internet at the time with Ray’s comedic commentary. As his popularity grew, Ray would go on to produce music, other web shows, and even tried his hand at acting.
These days, this early YouTuber travels and does comedy at different venues around the country while also uploading occasional videos to his YouTube channel. He also still produces music under Your Favorite Martian. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but even his most recent release got two million views. It’s safe to say that Ray hasn’t fallen off into obscurity even a decade after his initial rise in popularity.
Out of everyone on our list of early YouTubers, Shane probably has the farthest fall from fame. If you watched Shane’s videos growing up, you may or may not remember the number of characters based on racial stereotypes, shock humor, and one or two cases of blackface. This might be related to his fall from grace later on.
Depending on when you stopped watching his videos, you may have missed his announcement that he’s bisexual and his eventual marriage to fellow YouTuber Ryland Adams. You may have also missed the massive amount of backlash he’s gotten over the years for his various characters that base themselves on offensive, racist stereotypes. This would eventually lead to multiple apology videos along with the complete demonetization of all three ShaneDawsonTV channels.
Shane continues to post videos on his own personal channel, but they’ve taken a turn from short comedy skits to long-format conspiracy theory videos and vlogs.
Smosh was originally a simple website where creators Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox would post flash animations. They eventually began creating content on YouTube in 2005 and quickly blew up. You might remember their most popular video, Beef’n Go, or their videos where they create comedic deleted scenes from various films and shows.
Today, the comedic duo Smosh has evolved into something way bigger. Smosh continues to produce new content, but Anthony Padilla has not been a part of the channel since he left in 2017. The channel now has multiple different stars and different running shows. Unfortunately, it seems they’re not as popular as they once were. The channel itself has twenty-five million subscribers, but recent videos struggle to surpass even just half a million views.
6. Filthy Frank & Pink Guy
Filthy Frank was iconic back when the character was first getting popular in 2011. His voice, mannerisms, and personality were unique and, for some reason, resonated well enough with audiences that they kept coming back for more. Pink Guy would eventually become even more popular, with the channel having almost eight million subscribers today, but both acts would be retired for good in 2018.
Filthy Frank and Pink Guy were two characters played by George Kusuncki Miller. You may know Miller as Joji, a hit artist that constantly tops the charts whenever he releases new music. That’s right, before singing his heart out and making us all deeply regret random relationships from six years ago, Joji was playing a vile character who is, quote, “the embodiment of everything a person should not be.”
Joji has commented on his time as Filthy Frank and Pink Guy before. He’s stated that he doesn’t regret the past and that “now is a different time. The chemicals are moving in a different way now. It’s moving in a whole different direction.”
7. Annoying Orange
Looking back, it seems impossible that a channel formed around a talking orange that annoys its fruit companions until they’re suddenly murdered by kitchenware was funny, but Annoying Orange was the eighth most subscribed channel in 2011. The creator, Dane Boedigheimer, had a knack for filming and editing since he was a child and originally meant for Annoying Orange to be a one-episode thing. It wasn’t until viewers kept requesting more that he decided to make it a weekly show for YouTube.
Since then, Boedigheimer has spawned all sorts of new characters, new shows, and merchandise surrounding the Annoying Orange universe. You can even buy an Annoying Orange themed couch if you really want to. Today, the show is still going strong with weekly episodes. Sadly, the videos don’t get as many views as they used to, and it seems Boedigheimer struggles to get more than two hundred thousand, compared to his most viewed video with over two hundred and fifty million views.