Ian Cognito died doing what he loved best — performing stand-up comedy. The veteran British comedian took his last breath onstage on Thursday, April 11.
The 60-year-old comic was one of the performers for the sold-out Lone Wolf Comedy Club show at the Atic in the English town of Bicester, Oxfordshire. About halfway through his set, Cognito sat down on a stool and breathed heavily for about five minutes.
According to the BBC, the audience thought that this was some prepared bit that was part of his show and were laughing as he was silently suffering. Andrew Bird, who ran the event, finally went to check on Cognito.
“Even when I walked on stage and touched his arm, I was expecting him to say, ‘Boo,'” said Bird.
After realizing that something was seriously wrong with the comic, two off-duty nurses and a police officer, who were in the audience, started to perform CPR on Cognito, and an ambulance was called to the club.
Sadly, Cognito was pronounced dead at the scene. The Times reported that it is believed that he suffered a heart attack.
Bird told the BBC that Cognito said he wasn’t feeling well before he went onstage, but still wanted to perform for everyone that had already paid for tickets.
Ian Cognito: Stand-up comedian dies on-stage in Bicester https://t.co/ReM7nVfDWD— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) April 12, 2019
“He was like his old self, his voice was loud. I was thinking, ‘He’s having such a good gig,'” Bird said about Cognito’s performance prior to his death.
Bird also explained that Cognito even joked about his health during the gig, saying, “Imagine if I died in front of you lot here.”
John Ostojak was in the audience during the incident and said that he felt “really sick” when he left the venue because he had just sat there, laughing at Cognito, believing what was happening was all part of the act and not a horrible death.
Cognito, who was born Paul Barbieri in London, had been entertaining audiences since the mid-1980s. In 1999, he won an award for his stand-up comedy from Time Out. He had been living in Bristol at the time of his death.
Many of his fellow comedians paid tribute to him on social media following the news of his death.
We're all very sad to hear of the passing of the legendary Ian Cognito. He was original, always hilarious, sometimes offensive and the true definition of 'one of a kind'. R.I.P Cogs x pic.twitter.com/KxV7hyTt6b— Glee Club Birmingham (@GleeClubBham) April 12, 2019
“I’ll never forget his kindness when I started out & how god damn funny he was,” Jimmy Carr wrote on Twitter.
“Thing about Ian Cognito was it didn’t matter if you did a weekend with him, an evening, a hour, or only met him for a few seconds you’d walk away with a story to tell. Sometimes you’d have to tell it to the police, but always exciting to be around,” tweeted Omid Djalili.