In the run-up to Elon Musk’s hosting gig on Saturday Night Live this weekend, the Tesla CEO gave holders of Dogecoin good reason to bet that he would use the show to promote the cryptocurrency—and as a result, the token surged.
What kind of surge? Back in December, a single Dogecoin would have cost you about a third of a cent. After some nonsense related to the Gamestop/stonks mania of January 2021—plus periodic prodding from Musk on Twitter—Dogecoin settled into an early-spring groove of about 5 cents a token. In April—again, buoyed by Musk’s tweets—the currency hit a high of about 40 cents, enough to mint some Dogecoin millionaires (as my colleague Jordan Weissmann pointed out when he bought some for the lolz himself). And this week, Dogecoin surged again, to more than 70 cents, with frequent crypto pundits like Mark Cuban predicting it would hit $1. It was trading around 66 cents just before SNL started.
Here’s what happened on Saturday night:
This chart shows what Dogecoin has traded at since Saturday afternoon. Think of it as a real-time reflection of the anticipation for, and then the reaction to, Musk’s performance on SNL.
Take your eyes to 11:30 p.m. EDT on the chart. As the host, Musk did not appear in the cold open; Dogecoin took a tumble, perhaps reflecting some antsiness. His monologue began at 11:38 p.m., but he didn’t mention Dogecoin for four minutes—you can see the chart taking a deep breath. Then, Musk brought on his mom, the model Maye Musk, for some jokey patter about his childhood, closing with this:
Maye Musk: And I’m excited for my Mother’s Day gift. I just hope it’s not Dogecoin?
Elon Musk [nodding vigorously]: It is.
The studio audience loved it. And Dogecoin—right there at 11:45 p.m.—absolutely nosedived.
It appeared that Dogecoin’s big moment was a bust. The HODLers stopped HODLing. At 12:22 a.m., the stock-trading app Robinhood tweeted that its platform was having trouble with cryptocurrency, suggesting a stampede.
But then, two minutes later, Musk came on Weekend Update, where—performing as financial expert “Lloyd Ostertag,” aka the “Dogefather”—he explained to anchors Michael Che and Colin Jost what the current cryptocurrency boom, and Dogecoin, is about.
The gag was that Musk would give technically accurate descriptions of how Dogecoin works, and Che would repeatedly ask: “What is Dogecoin?” Eventually, Che turned to Jost to ask if any of it made sense:
Jost: I’ve actually been reading a lot about it, yeah. I’m trying to diversify my investment portfolio. My question is: What is Dogecoin?
Musk: Good question. It’s the future of currency. It’s an unstoppable financial vehicle that’s going to take over the world.
Che: I get that, but what is it, man?
Musk: I keep telling you, it’s a cryptocurrency you can trade for conventional money.
Che: Oh, so it’s a hustle?
Musk: Yeah, it’s a hustle.
Che: Why didn’t you say that, man? Dogefather, everybody!
Musk: To the moon!
Honestly, it was all a pretty good Dogecoin explainer—and the insta-reviews from the Dogecoin faithful were … not bad?
Let’s assume that Musk’s “to the moon!”—that’s standard crypto meme-speak—canceled out Musk calling Dogecoin a hustle on network TV, as the coin quickly made back some of its losses. (Who knows what will happen once America’s bloggers go to bed.) Let’s also stipulate that it’s a little disquieting that this made-up asset rises and falls on the tweets and bad jokes of a car-company CEO.
As Musk said during Weekend Update, Dogecoin was built as a joke—a comment, if you’re being high-minded about it, on the fundamental vacuousness of the whole cryptocurrency project. What is Bitcoin? you could imagine its cute little Shiba Inu mascot asking. A meta, winking dialectic on the meaning of Dogecoin is about the only way you can make sense of it: It has no meaning. It’s ridiculous. If you bought enough of it even just a few months ago, you’ve made a fortune. And Elon Musk has it on a leash.