British comic Ian Cognito died on stage; audience thought it was a bit

Veteran British comedian Ian Cognito truly had a show that was impossible to follow Thursday evening when he tragically died on stage. The comic, 60, reportedly sat down and put his arms and heads back, leading the audience to believe the routine was part of his act.

“He came out feeling really sick. We just sat there for five minutes watching him, laughing at him,” John Ostojak told the BBC.

After a few minutes, Cognito’s fellow comedians realized something was wrong and rushed onto the stage to help him. They called an ambulance and a paramedic in the crowd began performing CPR, but sadly officials declared Cognito dead at the scene.

Host Andrew Bird, who runs the Lone Wolf Comedy Club event at the venue, told the BBC that the comedian had not been feeling well before the gig started, but insisted on going on stage. “He was his old self, his voice was loud. I was thinking, ‘He’s having a good gig,’” Bird said, adding that Cognito had even joked about his health during his set. He reportedly told the audience, “Imagine if I died in front of you lot here.”

Cognito (his birth name was Paul Barbieri) was born in London in 1958 and had been performing since the mid-1980s.

Comedians mourn Ian Cognito on social media

Comedians immediately took to Twitter to post sympathies and memories of the comic, who many admitted would probably hate, or at the very least, be suspicious of the outpouring of support.

Comedian Jimmy Carr added to the lovefest. “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.”

Allison Kilkenny

Allison Kilkenny is a writer and performer living in NYC. She is a contributor at Reductress, a performer at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, and the host of the political-comedy podcast Light Treason News (

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