Copperfield was born David Seth Kotkin in Metuchen, New Jersey, the son of Jewish parents, Rebecca, an insurance adjuster, and Hyman Kotkin, who owned and operated a men’s haberdashery in Metuchen called Korby’s. Copperfield’s mother was born in Jerusalem, while his paternal grandparents were Jewish immigrants from USSR (present-day Ukraine). In 1974 Copperfield graduated from Metuchen High School.
When Copperfield was 10, he began practicing magic as “Davino the Boy Magician” in his neighborhood, and at the age of 12, became the youngest person ever admitted to the Society of American Magicians. Shy and a loner, the young Copperfield saw magic as a way of fitting in and, later, as a way to get girls. As a teenager, Copperfield became fascinated with Broadway and frequently sneaked into shows, especially musicals featuring Stephen Sondheim or Bob Fosse. By age 16, he was teaching a course in magic at New York University.
At age 18, Copperfield enrolled at Fordham University and was cast in the lead role of the Chicago-based musical The Magic Man (written by Barbara D’Amato and directed by Holland, MI’s John Tamimi) three weeks into his freshman year, adopting his new stage name “David Copperfield” from the famous Charles Dickens novel. At age 19, he was headlining at the Pagoda Hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Copperfield’s career in television began in earnest when he was discovered by Joseph Cates, a producer of Broadway shows and television specials. Cates produced a magic special in 1977 on ABC called “The Magic of ABC” hosted by Copperfield, as well as several of “The Magic of David Copperfield” specials on CBS between 1978 and 1998. There have been 20 Copperfield TV specials between 1977 and 2001.
Copperfield played the character of “Ken the Magician” in the 1980 horror film Terror Train. He also made an uncredited appearance in the 1994 film Prêt-à-Porter. Most of his media appearances have been through television specials and guest spots on television programs. His illusions have included making the Statue of Liberty disappear, flying, levitating over the Grand Canyon, and walking through the Great Wall of China.
In 1996, in collaboration with Francis Ford Coppola, David Ives, and Eiko Ishioka, Copperfield’s Broadway show Dreams & Nightmares broke box office records in New York at the Martin Beck Theatre. Reviewer Greg Evans, described the sold-out show in Variety magazine: “With a likable, self-effacing demeanor that rarely comes across in his TV specials, Copperfield leads the audience through nearly two hours of truly mind-boggling illusions. He disappears and reappears, gets cut in half, makes audience members vanish and others levitate. Copperfield climaxes his show with a flying routine, seven years in the making, that defies both logic and visual evidence — he could probably retire just by selling his secrets to future productions of Peter Pan.”
Also during 1996, Copperfield joined forces with Dean Koontz, Joyce Carol Oates, Ray Bradbury and others for David Copperfield’s Tales of the Impossible, an anthology of original fiction set in the world of magic and illusion. A second volume was later published in 1997, called David Copperfield’s Beyond Imagination. In addition to the 2 books, David also wrote an essay as part of the “This I Believe” series from NPR and the This I Believe, Inc.
On 7 May 2009, Copperfield was dropped by Michael Jackson from Jackson’s residency at the O2 Arena after an alleged row over money. Copperfield wanted $1 million (£666,000) per show. Copperfield denied the reports of a row, saying “don’t believe everything you read.” News of Copperfield’s collaboration with Jackson first surfaced on April 1, 2009, and has since been reported by several websites as a possible April Fool’s prank. 
In January 2011 David Copperfield joined the cast of the new feature film Burt Wonderstone with Steve Carell, Jim Carrey, James Gandolfini, and Olivia Wilde. Copperfield and his team also developed illusions used in the film.
In July 2012, OWN-TV network aired a one-hour special and interview with Copperfield as part of the network’s “Oprah’s Next Chapter” series. The show featured many aspects of Copperfield’s personal life and family—with tours of his island home and Las Vegas conjuring museum—and a sampling of his illusions and magic effects. During the interview, he and his girlfriend Chloe Gosselin, a French fashion model, announced their engagement, and appeared together briefly with their young daughter strolling down the beach on the island.
Copperfield notes that his role models growing up were not magicians, that “My idols were Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire and Orson Welles and Walt Disney … they took their individual art forms and they moved people with them … I wanted to do the same thing with magic. I wanted to take magic and make it romantic and make it sexy and make it funny and make it goofy … all the different things that a songwriter gets to express or a filmmaker gets to express ….”