British comedian Ian Cognito, whose real name was Paul Barbieri, died on stage while performing a stand-up set in Bicester, England on Thursday evening. He was 60.
According to CNN, the comic was mid-performance at the Atic Bar in a small English town north of Oxford when he fell ill. When paramedics arrived at the venue shortly after 10 p.m, he was already pronounced dead.
Ryan Mold, who was present during Cognito’s performance, told CNN that midway through his set “he sat down, put his head and arms back; his shoulders were twitching.”
Mold added that the “audience thought it was part of his set” because he had spoken about having a heart attack or a stroke only moments before and his behavior didn’t come off as unusual to those used to his flamboyant character.
A colleague, Andrew Bird, who heads the Lone Wolf Comedy Club event at the Atic Bar, told 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’.”
According to Mold, it took a few minutes before fellow comedians began to realize that something was wrong and ran onstage to help the comic. After calling for an ambulance, a paramedic in the venue performed CPR while the rest of the audience was vacated.