David Copperfield

June 4, 2012

I am David Copperfield. Ask Me Anything!

I'm David Copperfield, that guy that makes stuff disappear. And appear, sometimes. For the next year, I'm doing 15 shows a week at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Magic is my dream and for the past 25 years, it's been my life.

I have a show tonight in one hour (7pm Pacific), but I'll get to as many questions as I can before then and will be back during shows for some more. I'm new here, but I will give this my best shot!

Proof! http://www.twitter.com/d_copperfield

More Proof! http://www.facebook.com/davidcopperfield

Picture Proof! http://imgur.com/xZJjQ

UPDATE - About to go onstage for my first show of the night! I'll be back around 9:00pm Pacific!

UPDATE TWO - I'm back! Just finished my first show, and I'm back to answer some more questions.

UPDATE THREE - Time for my second show! I had an awesome time and I'm extremely thankful for your support and questions. I will be back! Until then, cue the Final Countdown music and have a great week!

What is your favorite illusion? Where did you learn it? How do you perform it?

One of my favorite illusions is Flying. It's a dream anyone can relate to. All of these illusions take many years to develop. A lot of trial and error. Sometimes we have to change paths totally, but eventually, usually, we succeed.

The flying illusion took SEVEN years to develop - to make it really credible. I wanted to make it feel real: levitating inside a plexiglass box, levitating through hoops, flying while holding a woman from the audience.

I remember when I first saw this illusion on TV. I was just a kid, but I still remember the feelings I had as you picked up the woman and flew away with her...and the music as you were floating above the stage with what I seem to remember were clouds or a fog machine.

It changed me...it influenced my life and became part of who I am. Now I work in finance and make peoples money disappear.

Wow - thank you for your message and support. Happy to hear that you are doing well and doing a little magic of your own now! ;)

Hey David! I'm a huge fan! In fact, you were the one who inspired me to do magic (I even have your 15 years of magic DVD from when I visited Taiwan)! Anyway, this will be a bit more personal...

I went to see your show around new years at Vegas. When you went into the audience to perform your floating-napkin/rose-change effect (sorry if I butchered the name), I was about 8 feet away from you. I remember looking very intensely at and above you in order to try to figure out how it worked. You then waved (in a magical fashion) to your cameraman, who moved in front of me to block my view. I shifted to get a better view, you waved at him again, and he moved to block me again.

I want to apologize if I was being a nuisance, I'm very inquisitive.

For anyone who has yet to see his show, DO SO! It's bomb-diggity.

Thanks for doing this AMA David, keep on being awesome!

tl;dr David Copperfield owned my curious ass.

Thank you! Next time, I promise no magical gestures.

How did you get into magic and what age? When were you first interested in illusions?

I started as a ventriloquist. A BAD ventriloquist. That interest brought me to the magic counter at Macy's in New York City. The first magic shop I ever went to was called Tannen's on 42nd Street. I was 8 years old. That experience fueled my passion, and I was hooked.

As a child of the 70's, there were only two magicians.

This guy...

And this guy.

What is your favorite memory of Doug?

Doug Henning opened a lot of doors for us in magic. He was someone I admired since I was a teenager. Amazing. When we hung out, all we talked about was girls. He gave me a lot of advice about that - I was 16 years old. He was more of a ladies man than you'd think.

Does doing 2 shows a night ever get to be to excessive?

I get a lot of energy from the audience. 15 shows a week is a lot, though. On the plus side, it allows for an amazing creative process. We constantly try out new material and new illusions in performances, and very quickly we find out what works and what doesn't.

Forbes has called you "the most commercially successful magician in history." What advice would you give to aspiring illusionists who might want to follow in your footsteps?

Edit: oops, typed the same word twice

First, learn everything you can about the art. Second, learn everything you can about being on stage - performing. And then work hard to find you own voice - your own unique point of view. Do lots of shows. And finally - most importantly - don't give up.

What's your biggest embarrassing moment on stage? Illusion or otherwise.

I've embarrassed myself so many times. About a week ago, I threw a frisbee into the audience to find a randomly selected person. A guy caught it and I told him to stand up. He was reluctant. I thought he was just shy. I encouraged him to stand up - please, stand up! Come on!

I then realized that he was disabled, and I felt absolutely horrible. I apologized profusely and I ran to him, he smiled, I hugged him, and he understood. So yeah - that was embarrassing.

What's an illusion performed by another magician that you find particularly inspiring or impressive?

Magicians lose the opportunity to experience a sense of wonder. Our mind is programmed to understand how things work, to be skeptical. To experience that now is a wonderful feeling, but very rare for me.

I recently saw the musical Ghost on Broadway, and my friend Paul Kieve created the magic for the show. One particular moment in that show gave me that feeling, and it was amazing to see. If you're in New York City, definitely check it out.

What's the most magical thing you own?

An island. ;)

Do you get tired of repeating the same shows night after night?

To be honest, I've been guilty of that. Which is why putting new magic in the show - new illusions - is extremely exciting. At any one moment, my team and I are working on 20 new pieces, so we're constantly involved in the creative process and trying new things. Every show, though, is a bit different - the audience changes everything.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?

I brush my teeth with a Sonicare toothbrush before every show.

Why do some fans think you died?

Probably saw a bad show. I hope they come back though. I'm still alive!

Do you get recognized in public a lot? How do you feel about being approached by fans?

I love when people come up to me. Especially when I'm eating or in the middle of a movie. Just kidding. Actually, people are REALLY nice. I've been very fortunate. There's a secret - I can become invisible by just changing my posture. It's a trick I've learned when I want to get somewhere quick.

Hey Mr. Copperfield. First of all I have to say that I have never been more excited for an IamA. I grew up watching all of your specials over and over again. My mom even remembers watching you perform at the Pagoda when your career was just starting out. I saw your show when you came to Hawai'i several years back (where you made my mom disappear at the end) and recently had the pleasure of seeing your show in Las Vegas. Before I ask you any question, I wanted to say thank you for filling my childhood with so much joy and wonder. Sitting in your Vegas show definitely transported me back to my youth.

I have two questions:

1.When I was a kid, magic was a big deal on television. There were constantly specials on that would feature dozens of magicians performing. Plus, you had a big special every year. More recently, there was a sort of shift to “street magic” like criss angel and David Blaine. As arguably the biggest name in magic, where do you see the future of magic heading? I would love to see more magic specials on television like the old days.

2.Are there any magicians working today that you are a fan of that we may not have heard of?

Thanks for doing this AMA and for bringing magic into this world!

  1. You'll be seeing a lot of new things from my team in the coming years, both on television, online, and in motion pictures. It's a very exciting time for magic. I think magic in the future will be a combination of the "grand spectacular" that I've been known for, but also intimate magic done in a new, interesting way. I think that magic can motivate, transport, and inspire people better than any other artform. So I'm excited and confident in its future.

  2. There are so many talented magicians in the world. Several of them I'm proud to collaborate with on my creative team. It's sort of a SWAT team for magical things, always experimenting with new illusions and effects for the show. It is an incredible experience to collaborate with other magicians, young and old - their creativity inspires me.

What number am I thinking of?

  1. Am I right?

When studying Magic who were your mentors, did you learn by books, video or people?

My idols have always been creators in the cinema - Orson Welles, Walt Disney, Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire - they guided me on my path to combine stories with magic. I find a lot of my inspiration in movies, music, and other artforms. As far as magicians, Robert-Houdin was a big influence - not only as a performer, but a creator.

How has the Internet (and technology in general) changed how your approach toward performing?

The internet is awesome! It forces me to up my game. It's created new ways for me to perform magic - I try to embrace it as much as possible. In the show tonight, I'm performing an effect that involves email and iPhone's and such. Magic and new technology have always walked hand in hand - even back in the days of Robert Houdin.

Mac or PC?

Mac... but, that said, PC's have been helpful in some areas of my work (in the museum, etc).

Favorite restaurant?

Lots! Robuchon and STK in Las Vegas. In New York, Nobu, Mr. Chow, and The Colonial.

Did you ever have any celebrities help out with any stunts?

Orson Welles hosted my first television special. What an honor.

I recall watching almost ALL of your acts on TV as a kid with my parents, always loved the interactive ones.

Somewhat unrelated: Did you like the movie "The Prestige"? (2006)

Filmmakers from The Prestige and The Illusionist did research in my museum - I was very happy with the respect they gave to magic.

I saw you when I was a child... and always loved the motorcyle that you used in the show. what kind of bike was it?

Harley Davidson Softail Custom.

Do you believe real magic exists?

Ever hopeful.

What was the first effect you ever performed, or the first you performed with some regularity and can remember?

The first trick I bought at Macy's was a little wooden board where a quarter would appear and disappear. It took quite a bit of skill and practice - I worked so hard on that thing!

I don't care much about magic, but I wanted to be you soooooooooo bad from 1993 to 1999 !

Hopefully with a better haircut than I had!

What do you do for fun or to relax when your not doing shows?

I see a lot of movies and Broadway shows.

whats your favorite show in vegas besides your own?

"O" by Cirque du Soleil. Absinthe was great as well.

Do you have any tips for someone who wants to get into doing magic? What are some easy tricks for beginners?

A friend of mine runs a website called www.theory11.com - an amazing community and instructional site where anyone can learn some powerful magic.

What was Charles Dickens like?

He was a great dad. Just kidding. Actually, in researching Charles Dickens, he also had a passion for magic - and performed magic shows for his friends.


So much fun. I got to test my improv skills with some of the best. Zach Braff is so talented - I loved the movie Garden State and especially the soundtrack.

What age did you first discover that magic was your dream job? What instilled you with that urge to become a magician?

Lastly, what kind of advice do you have for people who are a bit nervous to be outgoing to achieve dreams like you had?

For me, I dreamed about this from the time I was very young. It came very easy to me in the beginning. But I knew it would be difficult. There were endless challenges along the way. Tons of times when I doubted myself and thought I couldn't do it. I thought I would fail.

What worked for me can work for anyone that has a dream and wants to achieve it. I believed - and I still believe - that with passion, preparation, and persistence, anything is possible.

How has Metuchen changed since you grew up here? Do you ever come back? (I was born and raised in Metuchen!)

When I was in Metuchen, it was a little bit like Mayberry. I loved it. It was a small town, but it was just an hour bus ride from New York. It was a great balance for me. I was back in Metuchen last year to see some friends.

how many times will you do an illusion before performing it on stage?

A lot. But that doesn't stop me from putting something new in the show that I know is not yet perfect. As I develop a new illusion for the show, there is only so far that I can take it. From there, there's only one way to find out if it works: to try it. So we constantly add new illusions to the show to test things out. I make changes based on the audience's reaction - kind of like they do in the movie world with test screenings.

Do you still own your own island? If so, what's the first thing a guy does when he buys his own island? Did you throw a huge party or what?

I enjoyed it for a few weeks, but then I started a huge creative process of improving, developing, and renovating the island. It's been a five year process to get to where it is now. I'm really proud of what my team has done with it.

Have you ever gotten injured performing? or practicing your stunts?

I have, quite a few times! Most noteworthy was a show where I was doing a rope trick, and using a REALLY sharp pair of scissors. I wasn't being careful, and I wasn't looking - and I cut off the tip of my finger.

When I looked down, the tip of my finger was sitting on top of the scissors. There was blood everywhere. I looked to the audience and said "ladies and gentlemen, I think I cut my finger off." They began to applaud - they thought it was part of the show.

I got rushed to the hospital, and Mike Tyson's plastic surgeon sewed it back on. It looks perfect today, thankfully! The ironic thing - I went over Niagara Falls in a raft, I hung over burning spikes, I escaped from an imploding building - but I try a simple rope trick, and I end up in the hospital.

I live on a street called Copperfield Way. Just wanted to say, I've always wanted to meet you to say this. Thanks

Finally... I got my way! Sorry, that was a bad joke.

How do you define magic?

Making dreams - reality.

Let's say you never got into magic. If you could be equally good at something completely different (i.e. a sport, hobby, skill, career) what would you choose? It can be something you've never even tried!

I would be a film director. It's pretty much the same thing as creating magic on stage. I've done it for television, but not on the big screen.

Hey Mr. Copperfield! I always wondered, how does a magician, especially one as well-known as yourself, deal with those people that figure out the secrets behind your illusions? Is it more effective to ignore them or is there some other way that you handle these types of situations?

I welcome those that try to figure out the secrets - those people challenge me to make my magic more believable, and my stories more compelling. My goal is for less people to worry about the "how did he do that" part and just dream with me.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, magician or non-magician, who would it be and why?

For sure, Leonardo da Vinci. I just found out from a brilliant friend that da Vinci wrote a manuscript full of magic with one of his collaborators. So validated and inspired by this.

Huge fan, saw you in good ole Flint, Michigan. Answer only the interesting questions below.

  1. Has a volunteer ever intentionally or accidentally messed up a trick?
  2. What happens to your illusions when you retire or pass away?
  3. What is it like owning your own islands?
  4. Besides yours, what is the best show in vegas?
  5. What is one illusion from another magician(s) that you cannot figure out?

  6. How do I get a free trip to Musha cay?

  1. In Greece, a pop star saw part of how an illusion was done, and then revealed in the press what he thought was the method. He got front page news. His idea was close, but we had an alternate method already prepared. So the next night, I told the audience about what happened, and we performed the illusion anyways - but with a different method. After it was over, the audience cheered. It amazed me that the audience was on my side and wanted to help me preserve the wonder.

After reading through all of these comments, ive wondered one thing.

How do you stay so positive?

It amazes me how you can be this energetic after performing all of these shows. After doing the same stunts, 15 times a week. How do you do it ?

Passion is everything. Every effect in my show has a story within it and behind it - the struggle we went through creatively to make it happen, the events in my life that inspired it. Because of that, there is a certain affinity I have for each illusion that gives me continuous inspiration. {dc}

I saw you when I was a kid. You were able to fly on stage and I was amazed. When I stood in line to receive your autograph I attempted to telepathically ask you to telepathically teach me how to fly.

Why were you unable to hear my thoughts?

I heard your thoughts! Did you hear my instructions teaching you how to fly? ;) {dc}

Not so much a question but just a comment / memory. When i was very young, you came to Pueblo, CO and did a show there. My father took me to see it. i was so happy. He passed away in 2009 and this is still one of my favorite memories of being with him. So thank you for being a part of one of my favorite childhood memories.

Thank you for your message and for sharing that moment. Really, really means a lot to me. Honored to be a part of that memory. {dc}

Are you part of the magicians alliance? How do you feel about Gob?

We share a deep love and appreciation for one particular song. ;) {dc}

You'll probably never see this, but I've always wanted to learn magic tricks and never knew where to start. Any tips on beginners books or something to get me started?

My friend runs a website called theory11.com - a GREAT place to learn magic with a community respectful to magic's history.

Thanks for your message - very much appreciate your support.

Growing up I was never allowed to watch your specials on T.V. because my parents said that what you were doing was demonic. So my question is Mr. Copperfield, are you in fact, the Devil?

I don't think so!

Just wanted to say you're a great magician, and I have a huge respect for the work you, and your fellow magicians do.

Thank you! Sorry for the delay in response - just logged in. Hope you have a great weekend. {dc}

This interview was transcribed from an "ask me anything" question and answer session with David Copperfield conducted on Reddit on 2012-06-04. The Reddit AMA can be found here.