That number now “seems so small” compared to the channel’s current follower count of more than 32,000, according to Shaun Johnson.
“We really didn’t expect it to be where it’s at today,” Shaun Johnson said. “It’s so cool to see the reaction people have had.”
“What keeps me coming back to perform it is knowing that even after thousands of shows, I’ve never done two shows that were the same and they all have their unique high moments and surprises,” he said.
Improv has since taken Johnson across the country to perform at festivals, clubs, corporate events, BYUtv’s “Show Offs” and a few sold-out live shows in Utah, including two coming up Friday at the SCERA Center for the Arts in Orem.
“This will be our fourth time putting on a show in Utah, and each one has been bigger than the last,” he said. “We’re very excited about this one because it’s a new venue and a bigger audience than we’ve ever done before.”
Friday’s “The Johnson Files Improv Show” cast will include Johnson, Kirby Heyborne of “The Best Two Years,” Lisa Valentine Clark and Will Rubio of “Random Acts,” Chad Truman of Nashville Tribute Band, Trenton James, and a surprise guest.
“I have put together a cast that I have total confidence in, and that’s always my goal is to surround myself with people that I know will deliver a great show no matter what happens,” Johnson said.
“The Johnson Files Improv Show” focuses a lot on musical improv, which involves making up songs about audience members on the spot or improvising a 20- to 30-minute musical based on audience suggestions, according to Shaun Johnson. He said they also always try to keep the comedy clean.
“People think if you’re keeping it clean, it’s aimed at children, and anybody who’s been to our shows knows that that’s not the case and it’s extremely entertaining for adults that are attending, but they could bring their kids and have them enjoy it as well,” he said. “It really is aimed at anyone and everyone, and I think that you get a better quality show when you take the high road as far as the content you put out.”
“The Johnson Files” Instagram comedy channel started in 2016 after Johnson’s wife, Nicole Johnson, began posting funny videos of him on her personal Instagram account and they decided to create a separate Instagram comedy channel.
“The channel originally started as just kind of something funny and fun for us, but we started getting a lot of messages from people going through really heavy trials, people going through chemotherapy, people that have just lost a loved one, and we’d get these really nice messages that were basically saying, ‘Thank you for brightening my day,’ ” Shaun Johnson said.
Brightening people’s lives through comedy has since become the Johnsons’ mission statement.
“We saw what people were appreciating about what we were doing and … that we were really helping people, not just making them laugh,” he said.
The Johnsons aim to make serious situations laughable in their sketches, according to Nicole Johnson.
“We have a video about potty training or a video about the carpool line, picking your kids up from school, where these situations that are so stressful for people and people lose their minds over it,” she said. “Our sketches kind of poke fun of it a little bit and dramatize it and make it funny and people just relate to it and connect to it and just laugh at it.”
Nicole Johnson is not as involved in performing the improv, but “The Johnson Files” has become “a dual effort together to constantly be putting out content and thinking of new ideas,” according to Shaun Johnson.
“I’m going to be performing with some of my other improvisers at the Lehi Days and the Lindon City fair as well, and so offers like this that we get approached about, Nicole has taken on a lot of responding and organizing those and helping do that, so that I can focus on the creative side,” he said.
The husband-and-wife duo said they initially laughed about the idea that “The Johnson Files” could potentially become a business if it continued to grow, and it’s been surreal to work together and see the reaction.
“Every couple weeks, we’ll say to each other, ‘Can you believe we’re doing this or that these people want to come see these shows?’” Nicole Johnson said. “It’s a lot of work, but so rewarding. We leave after every show just pinching ourselves.”
The Johnsons plan to move back to Utah in about a month and put on live shows at least quarterly, according to Shaun Johnson.
“My goal is to continue to provide just amazing shows that are different every single time you see them,” he said. “As long as people are responding and engaged and want the content on Instagram and the live shows, we’re going to keep providing that because we’ve had a blast doing it.”
Shaun Johnson said they hope “The Johnson Files Improv Show” provides a distraction for audience members from their stresses and trials.
“It’s just supposed to be a fun way to forget everything else that’s going on and just enjoy this in-the-moment style of entertainment,” he said. “The word for having fun in Spanish is ‘divertir,’ which is divert, so it’s really to divert your attention from the day-to-day grind and the trials you’re going through, so we want to be a good, positive diversion from your life.”