Ian Cognito

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Ian Cognito
Birth name Paul John Barbieri
Born (1958-11-21)21 November 1958
London, England
Died 11 April 2019(2019-04-11) (aged 60)
Bicester, England
Education University of Bath
Years active 1985–2019

Paul John Barbieri[1][2] (21 November 1958 – 11 April 2019), known professionally as Ian Cognito, was an English stand-up comedian. An iconoclastic performer, Cognito had been compared to Lenny Bruce, Bill Hicks, and Jerry Sadowitz but never achieved success in the mainstream media, in part at least due to his reputation for being a hellraiser.[3] He won the Time Out Award for Stand-up Comedy in 1999.[4]


Cognito was born in London of Irish and Italian ancestry. He first performed stand-up in 1985 and likened arriving at his stage name to Dr Jekyll creating Mr Hyde.[2] By so openly embracing his excesses—such as throwing a television set out of a hotel window ("room service was late")—he quickly became known as Britain's "most banned" comic.[5][3]

Early on, his act involved bringing a hammer on stage, banging a nail into a wall and hanging a hat off it, followed with the lines, "This lets you know two things about me [...] firstly, I really don't give a shit. Secondly, I've got a hammer."[6]

He explained:

I was always pushing the envelope. I regret the dangerous ones and tried not to be too shocking (because that is easy to do). If I did shock, there was always a reason for what I did, even if it was taking my knob out. I was building a contradictory reputation as a dodgement and a great compere. If I was booked, the promoter could no longer plead ignorance. I was sometimes stepping over the line, if not during the show, then afterwards. In fact, I was getting away with murder. Good job I was funny.[7]

His autobiography was originally published on his website in 1995[2] then revised and updated for Kindle in 2013. He billed it as "the best book about comedy I have ever writ".[7]

Cognito was the father of British actor Ollie Barbieri (born 1991), who played Jonah Jeremiah "JJ" Jones in the British teen drama Skins (2009).


On 11 April 2019, Cognito suffered a heart attack and collapsed on stage during his set in Bicester. This was initially thought by the audience to be a part of the act, until emergency services were called in. The audience was evacuated and paramedics declared him dead at the scene.[8][9]

He was widely praised across the comedy community, including by Jimmy Carr, Matt Lucas, and Katy Brand.[6]

See also


  1. ^ Cook, William (16 April 2019). "Remembering Ian Cognito, the much-loved standup who was more likely to throw a TV out of a window than appear on it". The Independent.
  2. ^ a b c "Here comes trouble". Fest Magazine. 22 July 2013.
  3. ^ a b "Beyond Compere". The Guardian. 12 November 2002.
  4. ^ "Comedian Ian Cognito dies onstage – and the audience think it's part of his act". The Daily Telegraph. 12 April 2019. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  5. ^ "Funny ha ha". The Scotsman. 17 March 2008.
  6. ^ a b "Comedians pay tribute to Ian Cognito after standup dies on stage". The Guardian. 12 April 2019. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  7. ^ a b "'Shit, fan; fan, shit... let's see what happens' : Features 2013 : Chortle : The UK Comedy Guide". chortle.co.uk. Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  8. ^ ""Ian Cognito Dies"". beyondthejoke.co.uk. 12 April 2019.
  9. ^ ""Ian Cognito: Comedian dies on-stage in Bicester"". BBC. 12 April 2019.

External links

  • Official website
  • Official website (pre-minimalist version) archived at the Wayback Machine
  • Ian Cognito on IMDb
  • Review in The Guardian
  • Chortle review
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