Whatever happened to David “Not The Magician” Copperfield?

He starred in Three Of A Kind alongside Tracey Ullman and Lenny Henry, but David Copperfield hasn't enjoyed the same stratospheric fame


There is a straight-talking bluntness in his gruff Yorkshire voice when I ask the prickly question. What’s he been doing since Three of a Kind? 


David Copperfield – ‘Not The Magician’ – as one of his cruise ship billings jokingly put it, starred in the hit 1980s BBC1 sketch series which propelled the prodigious talents of Lenny Henry and Tracey Ullman into the comedy stratosphere. 

But while Three of A Kind gave Ullman and Henry a huge springboard into the upper-echelons of show-business, including a brief stint as a pop star for Ullman, Copperfield has been left to pursue a more quotidian existence in the leaner furrows of the entertainment industry – a denizen of corporate gigs and cruise ships.

“I know what you are at. I have had that question a lot, where they say Tracey’s done this and Lenny’s done that, whatever happened to you?”

But he adds: “I wouldn’t put it in a negative way. The thing is I have had my golden years and I am platinum now. But I can’t look back with any regrets at all and success for me is nothing to do with fame, or money, in that respect. Any working actor will tell you that. If you love the business, you love the business.”

To be fair to him many British people probably don’t know that much about what Ullman has been doing either – even though she is now claimed to be Britain’s highest-earning female comedian – having made her millions almost exclusively in Hollywood. As a result she has become largely invisible on the UK’s television screens. 

But as Ullman prepares for her big British comeback with a new BBC1 sketch series, Copperfield, now 68, says he is happy with his lot.

“I am away all the time now because I do a lot of these cruise ships. I am retired. I have got a pension but I still love the business. And so the ships are good, I like them and they have got lovely theatres and the people are okay and I like working with people of my age.”  

Copperfield has remained in contact over the years with Ullman. Copperfield’s daughter is an actress in LA and he used to meet up with his Three of a Kind co-star about once a year when he visited the city. 

About five years ago Ullman even turned up to Copperfield’s daughter’s graduation play at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts to the astonishment of the cast. She treated all the actors to a meal afterwards, he said.

Copperfield has not seen as much of her recently, following the death of her husband Allan McKeown from prostate cancer. Mckeown executive produced Auf Wiedersehen Pet before they both moved to the US, to further Ullman’s career in the 80s.

Copperfield says Ullman initially turned down the role on Three Of A Kind because she wanted to be a serious actress. Her agent phoned back later and said she was in. He said the three of them “got on like a house on fire” from day one.

He adds: “We didn’t know we were going to be this nationwide thing. To walk around supermarkets and have people pointing at you saying are you him off he telly.”

When asked if people will remember Ullman, Copperfield said: “I don’t think Tracey ever went away. I don’t believe in comebacks.”


Tracey Ullman’s Show begins on BBC1 today (Monday 11th January) at 10.45pm