British stand-up comedian Ian Cognito has died on stage during a gig, just minutes after joking about having a stroke.
Cognito was performing at the Lone Wolf Comedy Club at The Atic Bar in Bicester on Thursday night (local time) when, mid-performance, he fell ill and took a seat.
South Central Ambulance Service confirmed the 60-year-old comic died at the scene.
Event host Andrew Bird said the crowd thought Cognito was joking, and continued to laugh. The veteran comedian had not been feeling well before his set but insisted on performing, Bird told the BBC.
“He was like his old self, his voice was loud. I was thinking ‘he’s having such a good gig’.”
Audience member John Ostojak 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’.
“We came out feeling really sick, we just sat there for five minutes watching him, laughing at him.”
Cognito, whose real name was Paul Barbieri, had been performing gigs since the mid-1980s. He won the Time Out Award for stand-up comedy in 1999.
Tributes have poured in for Cognito on Twitter with comedians Jimmy Carr, Jack Whitehall, and Matt Lucas each remembering the man as a kind and brilliant comic.
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. I’ll never forget his kindness when I started out & how god damn funny he was.
— Jimmy Carr (@jimmycarr) April 12, 2019
In shock at the news of Ian Cognito’s sudden passing. He was always kind to me when I started out, and brilliant and provocative and entirely original onstage. What a loss.
— Matt Lucas HQ (@RealMattLucas) April 12, 2019
Ian Cognito has passes away. Gigged with him when i first started out and he was always so much fun, had his own mythology on the circuit his exploits where legendary. A true maverick. Hope he’s found somewhere to hang his coat in heaven.
— Jack Whitehall (@jackwhitehall) April 12, 2019