Goodbye, Cogs | Friends and family remember the mayhem – and the humanity – of Ian Cognito

Goodbye, Cogs

Friends and family remember the mayhem – and the humanity – of Ian Cognito

Friends and family of Ian Cognito are gathering in Bath today to bid farewell to the maverick comic who died on stage last month.

Scores of comedians are expected to share memories of their larger-than-life colleague at the wake, including Jeff Green who has made the 21,000-mile round trip from Melbourne in Australia to be there.

Fellow stand-ups, including some famous names, raised more than £7,000 towards his send-off via a crowdfunding page.

In a touching obituary published in The Independent yesterday, Cognito’s son Will Barbieri wrote: ‘He lived as a kind of showbusiness shaman, sitting and smoking by a fire on the banks of the river Avon under a bridge where he moored his boat, the Mermaid.

‘But while most people die with a whimper and some die with a bang, it is an ironic and beautiful sentiment to die, as Cognito did, with laughter.’

Cognito, 60, died while performing on stage at the Lone Wolf comedy club in Bicester on April 11.

A few minutes into his set – in which he had joked about having a stroke – he sat silently on his stool, with the audience thinking his stillness was part of his routine.

At the time, compere Andrew Bird told the 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".’

He is thought to have died from a ruptured aortic dissection.

Even before today’s funeral and wake, plenty of Cognito’s colleagues had already left their tributes and memories of the comic, whose real name was Paul Barbieri, on social media.

James Acaster wrote: ‘I’d heard so many stories before I met him. I got to a gig & the promoter said "Ian’s here & is in the dressing room". I didn’t know which Ian he meant, opened the door & a man was pissing in the sink and smiling at me. I remember thinking to myself "I think this is Ian Cognito".’

John Robins said: ‘When he was good, he was very very good. When he was bad, he was trying to piss out of the passenger side window on the M5.’

Luisa Omielan said: ‘I saw him once and was in awe, he was as epic as his reputation. Rebellious and brilliant… He even died like a fucking legend.’

And addressing him directly Laura Lexx wrote: ‘I remember being bowled over to meet you (a fact that you really rinsed me for) and I imagine you were talked about far more fondly and frequently than you'd ever have guessed. Thanks for giving it all away, we loved it.’

His former manager, Nigel Klafeld admitted that they parted ways after it became ‘too challenging working with comedy’s answer to The Libertines’ – but remained affectionate towards his wayward charge.

He wrote: ‘If you were lucky enough to get past the madness, the mayhem and trail of destruction often left behind, what you found was Ian Cognito who truly was the spirit of alternative comedy, very gifted and funny, totally uncompromising, would never adhere to convention both on and offstage, which drove him to be the comedian he was. Then there was Paul, charismatic, loyal, intelligent and a thoroughly decent man.’

Comic Simon Blight recalled one story from the early 1990s, when they performed on the French Riviera, sharing a room in a hostel. He said: ‘On the last night after the gig he said he wanted to go back and get changed… Twenty minutes later he turned up in a short red dress, fishnets, high heels and badly applied mascara. I starred at him , he said, "What?" I replied " nothing" and we continued drinking and wandering around bar to bar all night drinking, talking, shouting, meeting people, oblivious to everything. Delighted to have known him for nearly 30 years .’

Mitch Benn wrote a song called The Hammer And The Nail, titled in honour Cognito’s attention-grabbing opening gambit: taking the stage with a hammer, banging a nail into the wall and hanging his coat on it.

He would then turn to the audience and announce: "Now you know two things about me… One: I don’t give a f**k. Two: I’ve got a hammer.’ It was a stunt that helped get him banned from more comedy venues than anyone else, a fact which he wore as a badge of pride

Here’s the song:

Published: 8 May 2019

What do you think?

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.