On The Tonight Show in late January, Jimmy Fallon held up a portrait of a cartoon ape wearing a sailor’s hat, a striped shirt and heart-shaped sunglasses. “This is my ape,” he said, as his guest, Paris Hilton, gave it her approval. She also had an ape, which Fallon had earlier shown the audience, a red-furred version wearing sunglasses and an S&M cap. “We’re part of the same community,” Fallon said. “We’re both apes.”
This odd moment between Hilton and Fallon hurtled Bored Ape Yacht Club, a collection of NFTs depicting apes, into the spotlight. Other celebrities were showing off theirs too: In January, Justin Bieber posted a photo on Instagram of his Bored Ape #3001, sometimes called Lonely Bored Ape, which relates to his song “Lonely.” (This ape’s eyes are filled with tears.) Bieber paid $1.29 million for it, according to Etherscan, which tracks blockchain transactions, then went on to purchase a second for $470,000. For many observers, these were record-scratch moments in the middle of a long-running party, the kind of thing that made one wonder: What is going on?