Comedian dies on stage after joking about death

During the performance, stand-up comedian Ian Cognito sat down on a stool while breathing heavily, before falling silent for five minutes.
During the performance, stand-up comedian Ian Cognito sat down on a stool while breathing heavily, before falling silent for five minutes.PHOTO: IAN COGNITO/FACEBOOK

LONDON - A British comedian died on stage minutes after joking with the audience about dying.

Stand-up comedian Ian Cognito was performing a show at The Atic bar in Bicester in southern England on Thursday (April 11).

The show's host, Andrew Bird, told the BBC Cognito was not feeling well before going on stage, but insisted on performing.

Bird said the 60-year-old had even joked on stage: "Imagine if I died in front of you lot here."

During the performance, the comic sat down on a stool while breathing heavily, before falling silent for five minutes, Mr Bird said.

He said the crowd had thought it was a joke, and continued to laugh, unaware something was wrong, the BBC quoted him as saying.

"Even when I walked on stage and touched his arm I was expecting him to say 'boo'."

Once it was clear something was wrong, two off-duty A&E nurses and a police officer began chest compressions and an ambulance was called. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Audience member John Ostojak told the BBC: "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."

Comedian Jimmy Carr tweeted about Cognito, whose real name was Paul Barbieri: "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 and how god damn funny he was," Carr wrote.

Fellow comedian Jack Whitehall also paid tribute on Twitter, saying Cognito "was always so much fun, had his own mythology on the circuit, his exploits (were) legendary".