1984

Comedian Ian Cognito died during a stand-up act in which he joked about dying on stage and then fell silent while the audience continued laughing, thinking it was a joke.

“Imagine if I died in front of you lot here,” Cognito, 60, joked on stage during his set Thursday. Andrew Bird, who runs the Lone Wolf Comedy Club in Bicester England, told 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’.”

Audience members were mortified when they learned that had been chuckling at a man dying. “We came out feeling really sick, we just sat there for five minutes watching him, laughing at him,” said audience member John Ostojak. He added: “Only 10 minutes before he sat down he joked about having a stroke He said, ‘Imagine having a stroke and waking up speaking Welsh?'”

Fellow comedians extended their sympathies on Twitter after hearing the news of Cognito’s death, but commented that his demise was in some ways fitting.

“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,” said comedian Jimmy Carr.

Comedian Mark Steel said Cognito had “expired in his natural home” and was “a difficult awkward hilarious troubled brilliant sort, a proper comic.”

Bird said that dying on stage would have been the way Cognito “would have wanted to go,” adding: “Except he’d want more money and a bigger venue”

There is a comedic tradition of dying on stage. In 1984, comedian Tommy Cooper suffered a heart attack in the middle of his set on live television.His assistants and viewers back home thought he was making a joke as he slumped over and then writhed on the ground.

Cognito, whose real name was Paul Barbieri, had been performing since the mid-1980s. He won the Time Out Award for Stand-up Comedy in 1999 but never really hit the big time.


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