John Oliver attacks cryptocurrency craze: 'You're not investing. You're gambling'

Joe Sommerlad

John Oliver addressed bitcoin and the crypto-craze on Last Week Tonight yesterday evening, describing the phenomenon as, "Everything you don’t understand about money combined with everything you don’t understand about computers."

The British comedian satirised consumers' rush to enter the digicoin market without fully understanding how it works or what much of its accompanying jargon actually means.

"The vast majority of people buying these coins are not paying much attention to the details of the startups they are attached to, they are responding to the huge fervour," Oliver observed.

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"Many people are buying coins for no reason other than other people are buying them."

Elsewhere in an extensive 25-minute address, Oliver sent up the "cult-like devotion" with which investors follow sub-Reddits and YouTubers preaching the bitcoin gospel.

The segment also showcased the many ludicrous aspects of virtual currency subcultures, from Dogecoin's rise to the flamboyance of Bitconnect cheerleader Carlos Matos to business consultant Dan Tapscott's Chicken McNugget analogy for blockchains and the #HODLGANG hip hop track (HODL being an acronym for the crypto-investor's mantra "hold on for dear life").

Oliver also attacked such questionable practices as "pump 'n' dump" hype - bringing on Keegan-Michael Key for an illustrative skit - and noted the absurdity of corporations adding the word "blockchain" to their names, claiming he intended to rebrand his HBO show as "Last Bit Tonight with Block Chainiver."

"A bitcoin conference stopped taking bitcoin, which is a red flag since that’s the one place you’d think it would be accepted," he continued.

"It’s like when I tried to pay for access to the Republican National Convention using Ronald Reagan’s dusty skeleton bones."

The comedian struck a cautionary note throughout, stressing that "literally nobody knows how it’s going to develop" and concluding with: "I am not saying that every crypto-coin is a scam just as I'm not saying that every blockchain company is b*******.

"What I am saying is, in a speculative mania, it can be incredibly hard to tell which companies are for real."

Oliver went on to cite the example of startup Block.One, fronted by one-time child actor Brock Pierce ("a sleepy, creepy cowboy from the future" according to Oliver), which has already raised $1.5bn (£1.07bn) in investment in its first nine months despite not yet producing any of its pledged EOS software.