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British Comic Ian Cognito Dies on Stage During Comedy Set

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.

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“We were called at 22:11 last night to Crown Walk in Bicester to a medical emergency. We sent a rapid response vehicle and an ambulance crew but sadly one patient passed away at the scene,” the ambulance service said in a statement to CNN.
Cognito, who was born in London, began performing stand-up comedy in 1985 and was described as Britain’s “most-banned” comic due to his race-y material. In 1999, he won the Time Out Award for Stand-up Comedy. Fellow comics have paid their tributes on social media including “Eight out of Ten Cats” presenter Jimmy Carr who wrote: “I’ll never forget his kindness when I started out…”

Jack Whitehall, who recently hosted the Brit Awards, also took to Twitter, writing, “Giggled with him when I first started out and he was always so much fun, had his own mythology on the circuit, his exploits were legendary.”

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