British comedian Ian Cognito died on Thursday evening while performing on stage at the Atic Bar in Bicester, England. Cognito, who’s real name was Paul Barbieri, suffered a heart attack during his stand-up show, and was pronounced dead at the scene. He was 60 years old.
Andrew Bird, who runs the Lonely Wolf Comedy Event at the Atic Bar told the BBC that while Cognito said he wasn’t feeling well before going up, that the comedian decided to perform anyway. “He was like his old self, his voice was loud. I was thinking ‘he’s having such a good gig’,” Bird said of Cognito’s final performance.
However, Cognito, who won the Time-Out Comedy Award in 1999, was not joking. After Bird ran on stage to check on him, an ambulance was called immediately, while two off-duty nurses began CPR. Going out in such a dramatic way is exactly how he “would have wanted to go,” Bird said. “Except he’d want more money and a bigger venue.”
Here’s what you need to know about the late Ian Cognito:
1. Cognito Had Joked About Dying on Stage
Cognito said in his routine that night, “Imagine if I died in front of you lot here,” so later when Cognito collapsed on stage, the audience believed that is was part of his stand-up routine. Bird said to the BBC. “Everyone in the crowd, me included, thought he was joking. Even when I walked on stage and touched his arm I was expecting him to say ‘boo’!
John Ostojak, an audience member at the club said, “Only 10 minutes before he sat down he joked about having a stroke. He said, ‘imagine having a stroke and waking up speaking Welsh’.” Post-show, Ostojak recalls feeling nothing but guilt. “We came out feeling really sick. We just sat there for five minutes watching him, laughing at him.”
2. Audience Members Were Quickly Evacuated From the Club
The ambulance service said in a statement to CNN, “We were called at 22:11 last night to Crown Walk in Bicester to a medical emergency. We sent a rapid response vehicle and an ambulance crew but sadly one patient passed away at the scene.”
The Atic Bar owner, Ryan Mold said that is was “around halfway through his set” when he Cognito’s health abruptly shifted. “He sat down, put his head and arms back; his shoulders were twitching.” The audience members were quickly evacuated out.
3. Fellow Comedians Pay their Respects
Performer on the TV show 8 out of 10, Jimmy Carr, tweeted “Veteran stand-up comedian Ian Cognito has died on-stage – literally. The audience thought it was part of the act. Died with his boots on. That’s commitment to comedy. I’ll never forget his kindness when I started out & how god damn funny he was.”
Comedian Jack Whitehall, who recently hosted the Brit Awards wrote, “Ian Cognito has passes away. Gigged with him when i first started out and he was always so much fun, had his own mythology on the circuit his exploits where legendary. A true maverick. Hope he’s found somewhere to hang his coat in heaven.”
4. Cognito was a True Stand-Up Veteran
Cognito absolutely loved his job. No venue was ever too small and he constantly toured to perform his stand-up routine. He was a regular at The Black Horse Comedy Club, The Comedy Store in Manchester, and Comedy at the Railway.
He was reviewed by the Guardian as “just stunning” and called a “blazing talent” by Time-Out Manchester.
5. Cognito was Hilarious on Twitter, But Hated Tweeting
Going through Cognito’s old tweets is quite a fun ride. His self-deprecating and biting wit shine through, but after 2017, he stopped tweeting altogether, likely due to the fact he didn’t see his tweets drumming up his audience numbers.
Regardless of whether or not Twitter was effective in getting people to his shows, some of his one-liner tweets are so completely random, and yet so painfully honest, you can’t help but laugh.