Veteran comedian Ian Cognito died on stage while performing his stand-up routine earlier this week.
The 60-year-old’s breathing became heavy before he sat down on a stool. He then became silent for five minutes during the Thursday show, ultimately suffering a heart attack.
The show’s host, Andrew Bird, told the BBC that the audience at the Bicester, England bar thought Cognito was performing a bit. The crowd continued laughing, oblivious to anything being wrong.
Paramedics pronounced Cognito dead at the scene.
Bird—who manages the venue’s Lone Wolf Comedy Club—said Cognito wasn’t feeling well before his performance, but decided to go through with the set. “He was like his old self, his voice was loud. I was thinking, ‘He’s having such a good gig,’” Bird told BBC.
Cognito even joked about his health while on stage, telling the crowd, “Imagine if I died in front of you lot here.”
Bird went on stage to see if Cognito was okay. “Everyone in the crowd, me included, thought he was joking,” he said, adding, “Even when I walked on stage and touched his arm I was expecting him to say ‘boo.’”
When it was evident that something wasn’t right, two off-duty nurses and a police officer started chest compressions and an ambulance was called.
“Only 10 minutes before he sat down he joked about having a stroke,” audience member John Ostojak told BBC. “He said, ‘Imagine having a stroke and waking up speaking Welsh.’”
Mr Ostojak continued, “We came out feeling really sick, we just sat there for five minutes watching him, laughing at him.”
Bird said dying on stage was how Cognito “would have wanted to go,” “except he’d want more money and a bigger venue.”
Cognito’s real name was Paul Barbieri. He was born in London in 1958 and had been performing since the mid-1980s.
At least he left this earth doing what he loved.