Veteran comedian Ian Cognito died after falling ill on stage during a gig at a U.K. comedy club while audience members looked on, thinking it was “part of the act.”
Cognito was performing a set Thursday night at the Lone Wolf Comedy Club at The Atic bar in Bicester when he suddenly became ill on stage, the British Press Association reported.
Paramedics were called to the club just after 10 p.m., but the comedian was pronounced dead at the scene.
Members of the audience told the BBC that Cognito “sat on a chair and laid back for five minutes.”
“Only 10 minutes before he sat down he joked about having a stroke,” John Ostojak told the British broadcaster. “He said, ‘Imagine having a stroke and waking up speaking Welsh.'”
The man said it was towards the end of Cognito’s set when the comedian took a seat onstage.
“We thought it was part of the act,” Ostojak explained. “We came out feeling really sick, we just sat there for five minutes watching him, laughing at him.”
Tributes for the late comedian flooded social media after news broke early Friday.
“That might not mean much to you if your knowledge of stand-up only extends to a screen but for anyone who ever sat down in a comedy club and saw him on a stage – this is a hard one,” British actor and comedian Rufus Hound said. “We have lost one of the greats.”
“A sad day for the comedy community. He was a legend of the circuit. Funny and unique,” Joe Bor said. “Incredible writer and performer.”
“Veteran stand-up comedian Ian Cognito has died on-stage – literally,” comedian Jimmy Carr said. “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 & how god damn funny he was.”
As the Press Association notes, though Cognito never hit mainstream success, the comedian developed cult status and won the Time Out Award for Stand-up Comedy in 1999.
Cognito reportedly suffered a heart attack, but no official cause of death has been confirmed.