On Sunday, John Oliver used the main segment on Last Week Tonight to deliver his skeptical take on cryptocurrency, a sector that was almost begging for a takedown from HBO’s resident skeptic. Like many of Oliver’s targets, the world of cryptocurrency is a complex, jargon-heavy space that not many people thoroughly understand but that has bred unchecked enthusiasm and manifold opportunities for predation.
True to form, Sunday’s episode set out to demystify the blockchain and bitcoin and advise viewers to be wary of the get-rich-quick ethos that has come to define the cryptocurrency craze over the past year. Assuming his habitual role as the financially responsible parent, Oliver warned of pump-and-dump schemes, sketchy initial coin offerings, and Ponzi-inspired crypto startups.
The fanatical subculture, overhyped buzzwords, and self-important hucksters that thrive in the world of cryptocurrency fueled much of the comedy in the segment. Oliver gawked at a bizarrely zealous speech from a proponent of BitConnect, a bitcoin exchange accused of being a Ponzi scheme that was later shut down, and ridiculed a cryptocurrency-inspired hip-hop track. And, at the end of the show, he brought out Keegan-Michael Key to promote cautious investing practices.