I just read about the late Ian Cognito, a British comic who was in the middle of a performance and had just spoken about having a heart attack of stroke moments before he fell ill and died mid set. He was on stage at the Atic Bar in Bicester, about 14 miles north of Oxford in England, and at first, the audience assumed his twitching was part of his act, as he was known for having a “flamboyant” persona on stage.
Apparently, the 60 year old comedian hadn’t been feeling well before he went on Thursday night, but he insisted on completing his act. As he addressed the crowd, he said “Imagine if I died in front of you lot here.” Ouch! From his mouth to God’s ears?
Other comics backstage realized something was wrong before the crowd did. They called for medical assistance, and a paramedic who happened to be in the audience attempted CPR, but it was too late. Ian Cognito died at the scene. What a way to go!
It must be a special kind of surreal to be a comedian who literally dies on stage. It must be even stranger to watch this happen. Comics often talk about the horror of “dying on stage”, but they’re talking about their act. You know… it’s awkward and humiliating when you try to perform and fail. It’s happened to me a couple of times during vocal recitals. I have forgotten words of songs, even when I’ve had them down cold. I would imagine it’s even worse for comedians, who have to adjust their acts to the reactions of the crowds. Sometimes jokes that work for one group bomb when another group hears them.
I am not at all familiar with Ian Cognito’s act, but it sounds like he was a very decent person. Fellow comedian Jimmy Carr tweeted this:
“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.”
Other comics were similarly complimentary. Ian Cognito was described as “fun”, “legendary”, and “kind”. He’s also being called “A Proper Comic”. Although I know comedians dread the idea of “dying on stage”, it sounds like Ian Cognito did it in a way that no one will ever forget. It also sounds like he’s really going to be missed. I will have to seek some of his material. I have a feeling I’d enjoy it. I like cheeky British comedians… or cheeky Brits in general. I could have been one myself if my ancestors hadn’t moved to America.
I am in the midst of planning our next trip to Great Britain. Bill and I are going to Scotland again in August. I look forward to running into some witty folks while we see islands we haven’t been to before and drink lots of whisky. Hopefully, no one will die.