British comedian Paul Barbieri — most known by his stage name, Ian Cognito — died on the job last week at the Atic Bar in Bicester England. The 60-year-old comedian reportedly suffered a heart attack halfway through his routine, but the audience thought it was all part of the act.
That’s probably because one of the jokes he made on stage earlier in the night referenced his death. “Imagine if I died in front of you lot here,” he joked, and went on to talk about having a stroke and “waking up speaking Welsh.”
It came as a shock then when Cognito really did fall victim to a fatal incident on stage. “He sat down, put his head and arms back; his shoulders were twitching,” said Atic Bar owner Ryan Mold in a CNN interview.
After a few minutes, the laughs died down and the other comedians realized something was wrong. The show’s host Andrew Bird told the BBC, “Even when I walked on stage and touched his arm I was expecting him to say, ‘Boo.’”
Once it was clear Cognito needed medical attention, he was administered CPR but was unable to be revived. An ambulance arrived and paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene.
“We came out feeling really sick,” said John Ostojak, a member of the audience that night during the fatal performance. “We just sat there for five minutes watching him, laughing at him.”
Cognito’s memory has since seen an outpouring of love on social media from the comedy community, with comedians calling him a “maverick” of the ‘80s. “Died with his boots on. That’s commitment to comedy,” Jimmy Carr tweeted out.
Cognito won the Time Out Award for Stand-up Comedy in 1999 and you can read his autobiography on Kindle. According to Cognito, the autobiography is “the best book about comedy I have ever writ”.