Cryptocurrencies: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver | Transcript

Digital currencies are generating a lot of excitement. John Oliver enlists Keegan-Michael Key to get potential investors equally excited about the concept of caution.
Cryptocurrencies: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
Season 5 Episode 4
Aired on March 11, 2018

Main segment: Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies
Other segments: 2018 North Korea–United States summit, International Women’s Day
Guest: Keegan-Michael Key

* * *

John: Welcome to Last Week Tonight. I’m John Oliver. Thank you for joining us. A quick recap of the week. We begin with the Trump White House. Where every morning Jared Kushner slams a door and yells: “You’ don’t have clearance to hear ‘my’ secrets!” Another head-spinning week, from the departure of Gary Cohn, to the saga of Stormy Daniels, to the announcement on Thursday, that Trump had agreed to a historic summit with Kim Jong Un. This seemingly came out of nowhere. South Korean officials delivered him a message that Kim Jong Un was open to a meeting and this happened. Trump interrupted a conversation between South Korean officials and said: “OK…Tell them I’ll do it.” South Korean officials looked at each other as if in disbelief, according to a White House official: “Tell him yes”, the president said. And that was it! Trump broke with decades of precedent like taking a sample at Costco. Salmon jerky? Fuck it, let’s do it. If I don’t like it, it’s not like it’s the end of the world. Who knows if this summit is even going to happen? Because nothing Trump says means anything. But what that North Korean news did is distract from something else, that was International Women’s Day. That one special day a year for half the people of earth. Knock yourselves out, three and a half billion people! It was a day of marches all over the world, in support of causes from equal pay to combating sexual harassment. All of which were truly inspiring. What was dispiriting was that, Women’s Day inspired reactions from the clumsy to the appalling. Starting with the efforts of brands trying to appear progressive feminists. McDonalds turned its “M” upside down, for women, because I guess the “M” is for men the rest of the time, Porsche blacked out the letters in their logo until it read “she” and then there was Brawny, who ran a “Who’s Your Shero?” campaign.

Brawny celebrates sheroes this Women’s History Month and supports Girls Inc. to inspire sheroes of tomorrow. Who’s your shero?

John: We consulted some linguistics experts and it turns out there’s already a word for “women’s heroes”. Heroes. It’s a little like the word “sheroes” only it’s not stupid and it is a word. Mattel fared better with their line of “inspiring women” Barbie dolls. One local newscaster found a way to make it creepy.

The three inspiring women dolls are aviator Amelia Earhart, artist Frida Kahlo and mathematician Katherine Johnson. I love the Frida Kahlo one. She’s dressed… Love it.

Salma Hayek, the movie?

You like that movie yeah?

I like Salma.

You like Salma, ok.

It was a segment about women’s empowerment, children’s toys and a long-dead artist, but he decided: “I ‘can’ perv out on this. I ‘will’ perv out on this.” “I will make this Women’s Day segment about my dick!” That was not the only awkward interaction at a TV news desk on Thursday. Step forward, CBS This Morning, a show that fired Charlie Rose following sexual harassment allegations. They transitioned from a segment about dog behavior to a segment about International Women’s Day like this.

Researchers says it’s kind of like speaking to your dog the way you do to a baby, but don’t mistake the two. Come here, you little sweetie pie, don’t you look so cute.

I want to be in your lap, Norah.

You know you two are not alone? There’s people in the room.

John: Gayle’s right: there are people in the room. We should focus on who’s “not” in the room. Who is “not” in that room and how did he come to be not in the room? “CBS This Morning” is less a morning show and more “incriminating office surveillance footage” “that accidentally gets broadcast across the country every day.” Some news anchors were spending the entire day acting inappropriately. Like Mike Jerrick. We don’t have time to show you everything he did, this is just a sample of what he got up to on Thursday.

Have a great day International Women. Why do you need your own day? They changed the Brawny dude to a woman… Yeah. How could we change that into something good to celebrate women? It’s great, you’ll love it. How do you keep your girlish figure?

Ever cheated on your husband?

No. Last time you had sex?

It’s the Alex Holley.

Turn it around…

It’s so authentic it has a mic pack on it.

What do you do with this doll that you have at home?

I put it by my bedside, so I can wake up open my eyes and see you.

John: That is gross. We should all now take a shower, but I feel like Mike Jerrick would say: “noice”. But the worst moments were from male politicians. Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary and dumpy Swedish Beatle, celebrated by visiting schoolchildren, a perfectly pleasant idea. The subject of Cleopatra apparently came up and Johnson decided to tell the kids how she died.

She gets some snakes brought in in a basket of figs and she wanted to commit suicide because Antony was dead. She loved Antony. And so she took out the snake which was called an asp and she put it on her bosom and then she died. That was the end of Cleopatra.

What are you doing? I would watch hours of Boris Johnson explaining grim endings to distracted children. Sara loses her mind, Harry has his arm amputated and Marion performs a sex show for drugs. And that was the end of “Requiem For A Dream”, children. Kudos to that one kid who gave him a thumbs-up at the end of the story. Can’t wait to go home and ask my mom what bosoms and suicide are. Who better to end this roundup than Vladimir Putin? In his annual speech, he decided to read a Russian love poem that featured some truly unfortunate sentiments.

It is a woman’s soul that conquers us. When she is young, when she’s a mother And even when her hair goes gray.

John: “Even when her hair goes gray.” That is both a bizarre sentiment and a weird summary of any woman’s life. First she is child, then she makes child, then she changes color. She is like banana, if banana make other bananas. Happy International Women’s Day, you eternally fuckable bananas. In the unlikely event that Vladimir Putin loses his upcoming election, there might be a morning news job in Philly he would be perfect for.

And now this…

An MSNBC guest brought on to discuss Gary Cohn’s departure can’t get over the “Bachelor” finale. It comes down to two women, tells one he loves her but he’s gonna pick the other one and she cries in the limousine, then he picks the other one. There’s the blonde and the brunette so he picks the brunette, he proposes to her, gets down on one knee and then it goes to the host Chris Harrison who says: “but this is not the end of the story.” The bachelor says he can’t stop thinking about the blonde. And then the brunette comes to spend a weekend with him in some house they rented for them in Los Angeles. They say this is the most dramatic thing in Bachelor history we’re gonna show you, they had a camera on him a camera on her. And he says to her… I’m breaking up with you. For 20 minutes, America watched Becca, the brunette, cry. Cry and cry and feel humiliated and cry and say go away and then he wouldn’t go away…

John: Moving on. Our main story concerns technology. The thing that will eventually make television so HiDef, I will no longer be allowed to appear on it. I want to approach this carefully, discussions of any new technology tend to age badly, as this news report from less than five years ago shows.

The first users of Google Glasses will not be the last. It’ll end up changing our lifestyles, the way we interact. And just changing the gesture. Instead of this, it will be that.

John: Yeah, it wasn’t though. It was not that. People didn’t mind doing this if the alternative was wearing a stupid robot on their face. It is dangerous to make predictions about where tech is going. Tonight, we’re going to talk about cryptocurrencies. All you don’t understand about money combined with all you don’t understand about computers. The main currency you’ve heard about is Bitcoin. It’s been all over the news, because last year, its value exploded, from around $1,000, to $9,000 by November, to nearly $20,000 by December. Bitcoin became such a hot topic, paparazzi asked celebrities about it. Watch Michael Keaton leaving a restaurant.

See you guys, take care.

Would you recommend buying bitcoin?

I was just talking to my buddy, who knows about this. One guy said: “yeah, you probably want to.” Another friend of mine said… Not like a bad thing, they don’t know where it’s gonna go.

John: You do not expect conversations with paparazzi to be so nuanced. Cardi B! What are your thoughts on the idea of universal basic income? It could go a long way to reducing inequality, but I don’t think the Americans would support the tax increase. Read in: “Cardinomics: Making Money Moves For A New American Century” This was a dramatic shift, you’d only hear about Bitcoin from that one guy in your office who wouldn’t shut up about it. Let’s call him “Dan”. We’re calling him “Dan” because Dan is the exact guy in our office who’s been annoying everybody with his “you gotta get into Bitcoin” shit. This is why we hate Dan. It’s not the only reason, but it’s the easiest one to bring up right now. Lately, more and more normal people, or “non-Dans”, got into cryptocurrencies, after stories like this.

Dylan Fine is living the dream.

I had that Mitsubishi Eclipse. My AC didn’t work, right? I had to open my door to get food at the drive-through.

Everything changed when a friend introduced him to Bitcoin.

I turned 350 dollars into 12,000.

He became a millionaire at 24 by investing in Bitcoin.

I can put in a trade, wait, let the exchange rate fluctuate and I’m able to profit from the world’s largest financial market.

John: That man is apparently a millionaire, why he’s being interviewed on the most expensive outdoor swamp log in South Florida. Despite the fact that Bitcoin dropped by half since the start of this year, there is still a cryptocurrency fervor, with people watching people get rich or hearing about others on Reddit or Twitter and feeling driven to invest in crypto, due to FOMO or “fear of missing out”. FOMO is a term that many of you already knew about, but I’m forty years old, British and oblivious, or “FYOBO.” With all this excitement, we’d try and explain a few things tonight: Bitcoin, blockchain, the technology that allows it to exist, and cryptocurrencies in general. I’m going to be simplifying things. So let’s start with Bitcoin, which is a digital, decentralized currency. Bitcoin only exists as computer code and there is no bank or government creating or controlling it. This is already a little hard to understand, so I’ll let this man in a Bitcoin suit give you a decent explanation.

I’m a virtual currency. Worldwide, you can send for little to no fees, open-source, not controlled by any government, corporation or individual, it’s financial freedom, bro.

John: Thanks, bro. That is a nuanced and accurate explanation of a topic delivered with the help of a man in a stupid costume. I would make fun of that, except it’s the entire business model of this television show. You may be thinking, but: “How do you make money from Bitcoin?” Dan would say: “You trade it on exchanges, like any other currency.” And if you then asked, how does it have value? Dan would say: “How does any money have value, man?” And then he’d say: “Call me the brain-fellater,” “’cause I just blew your fucking mind.” Forget I asked, Dan. You’re absolutely gross. I hate you. But the problem is, Dan is kind of right. Like most currencies, the reason that Bitcoin has value is because people agree it has value. It’s really being treated more like speculative investment than a currency. Think of it like Beanie Babies. Why is this Beanie Baby being for sale at a price of $15,000? Its owner thinks that someone will pay that for it. That owner was absolutely right. I’m kidding. I bought this at a yard sale for $10,000. I’m not a complete idiot. Bitcoin is interesting as a concept, there are complicated technical issues to work out before it can become a usable currency. Look what happened in January.

Hundreds are in Miami for a Bitcoin conference but it had to stop taking Bitcoin as a payment for tickets last week, there are still kinks to work out with the currency.

John: It’s true, a Bitcoin conference stopped taking Bitcoin. Which is a red flag, that’s the one place you’d think it would be accepted. Like when I tried to pay for access to the Republican National Convention using Ronald Reagan’s dusty skeleton bones. Everyone agreed they had value, there wasn’t an adequate network for the completion of our transaction. Whether Bitcoin catches on or not, many believe the exciting thing is the potential of the innovative technology that it’s built on, something called “blockchain”. If I wanted to send money to someone across the world, a bank would verify that transaction and it could take days. With Bitcoin, it is vastly faster, no bank is involved. Because blockchain technology allows a record or a ledger of every Bitcoin transaction ever made to be stored, not in one place, but across vast numbers of computers. That is part of what people mean when say Bitcoin is “decentralized” and decentralization has advantages, from speed to security.

The key point here is that this is a distributed ledger. There is no central survey. All the other ledgers that we have, they all sit and reside inside that company, which means they have one point of attack, they can be hacked, JP Morgan was hacked by cyber thieves not so long ago, Home Depot, Target, we’ve had these companies get hacked because there’s one central repository of information. Bitcoin ledger resides on thousands of computers. You can’t hack that.

John: Sounds great. Because of the complicated process the network uses, it is very secure. I’m not going to get into what that process is, or how it works, but I will share a really dumb metaphor for why it is safe.

The way I like to think of it is that a blockchain is a processed thing, sort of like a Chicken McNugget and if you wanted to hack it, it’d be like turning a Chicken McNugget back into a chicken. Someday, someone will do that, but now it’s going to be tough.

John: That is a horrible thought, why is that reporter so happy? If anyone figures out how to turn a Chicken McNugget back into a chicken, that chicken is going to be fucked up. He’ll be suffering from PTSD and writing poetry about the experience. The things I saw… My body is whole, But what of my soul? That is the blockchain: a database impossible to hack or tamper with and which could improve security, efficiency and trust. that is why big companies like Walmart, IBM and JP Morgan have been experimenting as a way to potentially share and secure data and transactions in a reliable, easy to access way. No one yet knows what blockchain is really capable of. Don’t worry if you still don’t understand. Most people don’t. Dan thinks he does, he’ll throw around terms like “supply chain management” and it makes me want to punch him in his fucking face. Stop leaving printouts of Reddit threads on my desk, Dan! I’m just throwing them away! I hate you! The problem is there is enough excitement around the very word “blockchain” that it’s become a magnet for investment. Reuters found that the existing companies that merely added the word blockchain to their name saw their stock price increase more than threefold and one was particularly dumb.

Long Island Iced Tea renamed themselves long blockchain. Guess what happened? Yeah, their stock tripled. To people who watch markets. Seems so stupid it’s not worth reporting.

John: I don’t care how stupid it is, it works. This show will be called “Last Bit Tonight With Block Chainiver.” Triple the ratings! Triple! Take that to the bank! At this point you know basically what Bitcoin is… It’s the future, bro. And why people are excited about blockchain: it won’t let people chicken up your nuggs. You might still be wondering: what about all the other cryptocurrencies? The key software to create a coin is open-source, anyone can create one, so they have done that. There are over 1 500 cryptocurrencies that you can buy, with names like Titcoin, Trumpcoin, Jesuscoin, Insanecoin, Electroneum, Wax, Particl, Deep Onion, Snovio, Pluton, NuBits and Clams. So insane, you can’t tell which ones are real and which I made up, they’re all real, I didn’t make any up, I tried to come up with a dumber name than “Deep Onion” and it can’t be done. Not all are like Bitcoin, hoping to be the next currency. Startup companies will sell a coin to try and raise money, as an alternative to issuing stock. Sometimes, those coins are meant as tokens, to be used for services that startup might eventually provide. Kind of like the tokens at Chuck E. Cheese, only virtual and not redeemable at a rat-based food emporium. It has become incredibly easy to issue coins so companies are doing it a lot. Initial coin offerings, or ICO’s, raised over $6 billion in 2017, with one company raising $35 million in under 30 seconds. Normally when someone makes that much money that fast, they did it by walking up to Bill O’Reilly, sitting in silence for 26 seconds, saying: “I recorded our phone calls.” But the vast majority of people buying these coins are not paying attention to the details of the startups they’re attached to. They are just responding to the huge fervor. There’s an entire online subculture of YouTube personalities and sub-Reddits for having a cult-like devotion to buying these coins. You’ll find they have a whole shorthand. One key term is “hodl”, based on a misspelling of “hold”. This is a foundational principle: don’t sell when prices drop. “Hodl” in the face of “FUD”: “fear, uncertainty and doubt.” You might miss out when the coin “moons”, or rockets up in value, you’ll get “rekt” or lose money and never be able to afford the traders’ ultimate goal: a “lambo,” which is short for, Lamborghini, because of course it is. If you are thinking these terms belong in a rap video, some traders agree.

Throw your hands in the air man.
If you’re d-down with the blockchain.
I ain’t got time for the haters.
We about to grow to a million.
Hodl gang…
Tell me are you down with the crypto?
Hodl gang…

John: Cool. And I’ve got to be honest there, it is hard not to watch that and deep down want to be in the hodl gang, hodl gang… Many are buying coins because other people are buying them. Even a coin started as a joke, like Dogecoin, can rocket up in value.

It’s named after an internet meme that was popular at the time. A photo of a shiba Inu with comments written in broken English around it. Dogecoin’s total market value has almost doubled, to over $2 billion. There appear to be no obvious reasons for this.

John: Yeah, because there were no obvious reasons. The whole point was to make fun of how people will buy anything. People did exactly that. That is no less ridiculous than if you started a joke band after Beatles called The Woofles, all St. Bernard’s, and they went on to have 40 #1 hits and were knighted by the Queen. This is clearly ridiculous, but for investors, it’s also dangerous. This market is the Wild West and ripe for exploitation. It’s easy to manipulate the value of coins through pump-and-dump schemes. Regulators crack down on those with stocks, but they acted slower in the crypto market. That may explain why some groups have felt comfortable posting videos like this.

Welcome to Crypto Callz, a leading cryptocurrency pump group, where we skyrocket the value of coins for six hours at a time. For information about our weekly pumps, follow our Telegram channel. Once released, buy the coin as quickly as possible. When everyone in the group has purchased the coin, we will begin advertising it to other investors on social media. Outside investors will fill our orders as they “FOMO” into the coin that we have increased in value 1,000 to 2,000 percent. The six hours are up, everyone in our group will have sold for profit. Crypto Callz: together, we profit.

John: Holy shit! It’s kind of destabilizing to see an advertisement for something you could have sworn was illegal. It’s like watching a commercial and hearing: Do you not have a child? Do you want somebody else’s? Then Kidnappers’ Korner is the group for you! We take children that are not ours and bring them home with us! It’s “easy peasy toddler-seizey!” Pump-and-dumps are the beginning. There are dodgy companies, some look like old-school frauds with crypto sauce on top. Take Bitconnect. It was worth three billion dollars. Bitconnect told investors that, if they handed over money, they could get returns as 40% a month. And a rate of return that high may seem suspicious to you, but the market was soaring and Bitconnect had excited investors, like this guy who spoke at one of the conferences.

Wassup? Bitconnect! Let me tell you that we are changing the world as we know it. The world is not anymore the way it used to be. No! Bitconnect! Bitconnect! I love… Bitconnect!

John: Yes, the last time I saw someone that irrationally exuberant, he was roughly seven years away from divorcing Katie Holmes. I don’t blame him. He’s got a good head on his shoulders. You stay clear, Tommy. Stay clear, my boy. That man’s passion has become famous in the crypto world, as well as his conviction that the business was 100% legit.

I am saying to so many people who say that this was going to be a con artist game, a scammer game: you’re gonna lose all your money, my wife still doesn’t believe in me! I tell her: “Honey, look, this is real.” No, that’s a scam. I said to myself: “When I started to put ten thousand dollars a day on her table, then she’s gonna say…. Wow…

John: Women! Always nagging you not to get sucked into get-rich-quick schemes, leaving your marriage in a state of financial ruin. Bitconnect! This will not surprise you: Bitconnect essentially collapsed. Regulators in two states issued cease-and-desist orders and Bitconnect’s reportedly been labeled a Ponzi scheme. Something nobody suspected from their promotional material, except it featured this illustration of their bonus system. A picture of a man coming up with the idea for a pyramid scheme. I am not saying that every crypto coin is a scam. I’m not saying that every blockchain company is bullshit. In a speculative mania, it can be incredibly hard to tell which companies are for real. Look at, a startup whose coin offering has so far raised $1.5 billion, which will go toward developing a software project, EOS. It took Facebook seven years to raise a billion dollars from investors. It took Uber five years. EOS surpassed that in around nine months. Despite the Wall Street Journal described block one as “a software startup that doesn’t plan to sell any software” and describes what it’s selling as having “no purpose”. While the company insists that EOS will be “the most powerful infrastructure for decentralized applications”, which they say will be “usable”, it hasn’t launched yet. You have to take their word for it. And they do talk a big game.

Everything will be better, faster and cheaper. Everything will be more connected. Everything will be more trustworthy, more secure. Everything that exists is no longer going to exist in the way that it does today. Everything in this world is about to get better.

John: Please, douche. Everything will no longer exist in the way it does? How is EOS going to change this iguana? How is EOS going to both alter and improve, Susan, here? Susan is enough! That sleepy creepy cowboy from the future is named Brock Pierce. He began his career appearing in “The Mighty Ducks” and in a Gushers commercial as a child who turns into a banana. That banana got involved with unsavory figures. Google “Brock Pierce scandal” is all I’m saying there and he teamed up with EOS to help promote their not-yeta-product. He gave a speech at a tech conference, and remember as you listen: the company he’s describing has raised $1.5 billion.

This is a Chestahedron that I’m wearing which is the logo of EOS. The Chestahedron is the sacred geometrical shape of the heart. If you’re gonna bring a technology to the world that has the potential to change everything, it’s good when you do it with intention and seems a good place to begin. This was my wedding. An entirely unicorn wedding. All the groomsmen wore the color of the rainbow plus pink. And my best man was a woman dressed in black, cracking a whip.

John: Stop, Brock. Stop. I was already out at Chestahedron, and I refuse to believe that a man who organize a unicorn wedding should be trusted around one and a half billion dollars. If someone mowed your lawn and gave you that speech, you would tell: “I don’t trust you with my lawn.” You’re gonna organize a warlock quinceanera on it. At the start, I said that I didn’t want to make predictions. Maybe EOS is going to be the next Google. I don’t think it is. I don’t think it can be worth over a billion dollars at this point. But I could be wrong. I’m not, but I could be. If you choose to invest in the cryptocurrency space, know you’re not investing, you’re gambling. You should know that is what you’re doing. Prices do go down. Bitcoin could be worthless. Or it could be worth billions and adopted as a new global currency. If that does happen, I will not experience it, I’ll be in an bunker, trying to avoid Dan’s smug little face. I hate your belt more than anything else in that photo. This is a new space and nobody knows how it’s going to develop. So you need to be careful. I know that that sounds boring, caution is a tough sell when you’re up against Bitconnect and hodl gang. I have invited a special guest to help make that message more exciting.

Wassup? I’m so thrilled right now to be sharing this, super exciting, hunky-dory, Magic Mike moment with all of you! Tonight, we’re going to be talking about: responsibility!

John: Responsibility. Tell me more about this responsibility. I shouldn’t throw everything I own into cryptocurrencies?

That’s right, John.

John: I shouldn’t do it?


John: That’s a no?

That’s a no.

John: That’s a hard no.

The crypto market is volatile and insufficiently regulated. They pump they dump. They pump ‘n dump… Pumpin’ it and dumpin’ it… It’s true. They pump and dump…

John: All the time.

And they dump.

John: Yes. That’s right.

They dump.

John: Yeah.

Listen up bitties and gentlecoins, investing in crypto could be like getting in on Google on the ground floor.

John: Hold on wait! When you say that, that sounds absolutely great.

Or it could be like getting in on Google Glass on the ground floor! That turned out to be: a one-story building!

John: That was a single story. What is the big lesson here?

Never invest any more than you’re willing to lose! And if you do, don’t just blindly “hodl”! Instead, you have to be extremely craeful, ok? Have to be craeful. Hashtag “craefulgang”! Craefulgang!

John: Craefulgang, I love it.

John: That’s our show! Thank you for watching! We’ll see you next week! Goodnight! Craefulgang! Responsibility! He makes some good points. You make a good point. I make a good point. Responsibility!


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