BICESTER, UK (CelebrityAccess) — Veteran British stand-up comedian Ian Cognito, who was compared to Bill Hicks and Lenny Bruce, died on stage during a performance.
According to the BBC, the 60-year-old comic was performing a set at The Atic in Bicester when he became unwell and sat down on a stool on stage, breathing heavily and not speaking for 5 minutes.
Andrew Bird, who runs the comedy night at the club, said the audience initially thought the pause was part of the act.
“Everyone in the crowd, me included, thought he was joking,” Bird told the BBC. “Even when I walked on stage and touched his arm I was expecting him to say ‘boo’.”
When the audience realized he was in medical distress, two off-duty nurses and a police officer began performing chest compressions until an ambulance arrived but he was declared dead at the scene.
Bird told the BBC that Cognito was feeling unwell before the show, but said he insisted on performing.
“He was like his old self, his voice was loud. I was thinking ‘he’s having such a good gig’,” Bird said.
By a strange coincidence, Cognito joked about his health during the set and at one point, told the audience, “imagine if I died in front of you lot here.”
Cognito, whose real name was Paul Barbieri, has been a performing comic since the mid-1980s and won a Time Out Award for Stand-up Comedy in 1999. However, due to a reputation for volatility, he never managed to break through to mainstream success and claimed to have been banned from most comedy clubs in the UK.
“I was always pushing the envelope. I regret the dangerous ones and tried not to be too shocking (because that is easy to do). If I did shock, there was always a reason for what I did, even if it was taking my knob out. I was building a contradictory reputation as a dodgement and a great compere. If I was booked, the promoter could no longer plead ignorance. I was sometimes stepping over the line, if not during the show, then afterwards. In fact, I was getting away with murder. Good job I was funny,” he wrote in his 1995 autobiography, A Comedian’s Tale.
Ian Cognito peforming at the Glastonbury Festival in 1999.