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The Daily Showdown

The Daily Show seriously tries to explain bitcoin and other 'stupid meme currencies'

Bitcoin's heady rise into the financial ether hit some turbulence this week, as the world's largest cryptocurrency dropped 30 percent in five days, from nearly $20,000 a coin to about $13,000 on Friday. If the mention of blockchains and cryptocurrencies makes your eyes glaze over, The Daily Show's Ronny Chieng might have the explainer for you, starting with the big question: "Is this some fake s--t that some f---ing nerds made up on the internet to steal our money, or is it the future of finance?" The answer might be: both.

Chieng interviewed the co-founders of two cryptocurrencies, Ethereum — No. 2, behind bitcoin — and Dogecoin, a "stupid meme currency" that is nevertheless "worth almost $400 million," he noted. But first he took a bubble bath. "Does cryptocurrency make you feel angry and confused? Well it should," Chieng said, necking champagne in a bathtub overlooking Manhattan, like in The Big Short. Cryptocurrencies, he explained, are a way to conduct financial transactions online without a middleman like PayPal taking a cut, and minimizing the risk of theft by recording each transaction in a public ledger called a blockchain.

But in the end, a cryptocurrency like Ethereum is "based on faith" in its blockchain, Ethereum's Joe Lubin explained. "When you get enough people believing in cryptocurrency, then you can snowball into something that a society actually deems valuable, like the U.S. dollar." Chieng decided that if money isn't real, he might as well make his own cryptocurrency, ChiengCoin. That took all of 10 minutes, but he highlighted the faith problem when he tried to use it. Watch and (maybe) learn below. Peter Weber