From making the Statue of Liberty disappear to levitating over the Grand Canyon, this guy knows what he’s doing; Copperfield holds 11 Guinness World Records for attendance records, earning records, and largest stage illusions. His current show is running in Las Vegas, and we were fortunate enough to spend a few minutes with the magician himself before a performance.
Club 808: So what started you in the world of magic? How’d you begin?
David Copperfield: I started as a ventriloquist, a very bad ventriloquist. And people saw my lips moving and it was ridiculous, so finally I decided I’d better change my occupation. So I went to Macy’s, I went to the magic counter at Macy’s, and started doing magic. And I, actually, it was probably a Bicycle deck that I had, and there was a very special piece I’d do. It’s called a Svengali Deck, with Bicycle cards, which is still an amazing piece of magic.
Club 808: You’ve been doing this for so long. What keeps you coming back? What keeps the excitement there?
David: I love what I’m doing, I love creating new things. Just in the last show, we put in something new in the show, so it’s exciting backstage, watching videotapes of the illusion we just put in the show, changing it, deciding what we’re going to do… I love creating new things. It’s kind of my job, it’s what I do, and I really have fun with it.
Club 808: And on that note, what’s rewarding about it all?
David: Watching people react, watching people be inspired, be taken on a journey, forgetting their problems, looking ahead in their own lives to doing impossible things. That’s kind of what drives me, gives me a sense of focus.
Club 808: When you do large scale-stuff, Statue of Liberty. What kind of preparation does that take? What kind of time?
David: Usually, about two years of work go into each illusion, whether it’s big or small. Two years of work on each five-minute piece. When you see me do a five-minute thing, there’s been about two years of preparation behind that. You know, I find that’s what it takes to really make it the level of quality I prefer.
Club 808: What’s been the most complicated gig to pull off?
David: Probably a thing called “Flying,” which was complicated. I used to fly around through hoops in a plexiglass box, and that took about seven years. There’s a piece in the show right now with an alien…that took a few years, and it’s very complicated and fools lots of magicians, so that’s cool.
Club 808: Tell us about your team. Tell us about the people who help you make it happen.
David: I have a group of people called Magic lnc. We come up with ideas and create things from sketch to stage to spectacle, and we have a lot of fun solving problems and taking magic to new heights, we hope.
Club 808: Obviously you still do some card tricks. How much of that is important to you still?
David: Everyone understands cards and relates to it. They have them in their homes and in their hands, so it makes them very accessible. I used to have a piece in my show that I just took out for these new things in the show—with a scorpion, where the scorpion actually does the magic with the cards. The scorpion actually finds the cards in the deck.
Club 808: Where does the inspiration come from?
David: A lot of them are from people that I ask what their dreams are, and I try to make those dreams real. A lot of them are things in my life that inspired me that I’d like to share with people to maybe give them inspiration, to make people dream about things and give hope. And show the possibilities that what you think is impossible in life actually is possible.
Club 808: What’s the difference between a live show and a TV production for you?
David: They’re very similar because all my TV shows are done live in front of audiences, and all the material I take on the road and travel with them test them for hundreds and hundreds of shows before I shoot them for TV, so. We take it very seriously and make it very close to the live experience whenever we’re onscreen.
Club 808: What’s something people wouldn’t know about you?
David: I’m a horrible karaoke singer. I’ve got these islands in the Bahamas which we charter out to people, and I go when I’m not working. [They’re called] Musha Cay and the Islands of Copperfield Bay. And my guests, if I happen to be there—we sing karaoke and they realize why I’m a magician, not a singer.
Club 808: Who are some up and coming magicians we should notice?
David: Oh, a lot of people through theory11. The website has a great community of young people, and lots and lots of very, very talented people. And if you check out all the artists on there creating things with your cards, with Bicycle cards, they do a beautiful job and amaze a lot of people who have been in the business a long time.
Club 808: We interviewed Jonathan Bayme for our first Club 808 interview, and he’s a big fan of yours and you guys have worked together. Can you tell us about working with him?
David: He’s a good friend and he’s kind of mini-me. He’s a great entrepreneur and a really smart guy—not that I’m a smart guy, he’s a lot smarter than me—but he’s created a community of magicians that’s pushed the art forward and does amazing things for our craft and makes magic cool.
Club 808: Anything else you want people to know about you?
David: No, I’m just very happy to be part of what you’re doing.
Club 808: David, thank you so much for giving us the time to interview you.
David: Thank you. My pleasure.