Paul John Barbieri (21 November 1958 – 11 April 2019), known professionally as Ian Cognito, was an English stand-up comedian.[1][2] He won the Time Out Award for Stand-up Comedy in 1999.

Ian Cognito
Ian Cognito 2013.jpg
Birth namePaul John Barbieri
Born(1958-11-21)21 November 1958
London, England
Died11 April 2019(2019-04-11) (aged 60)
Bicester, Oxfordshire, England
Alma materUniversity of Bath
Years active1985–2019

Cognito had an aggressive stage persona and a reputation as Britain’s "most banned" comic.[3] Nevertheless, he was widely rated as a masterful performer with an innate grasp of stagecraft, inviting comparisons to iconoclasts like Lenny Bruce, Bill Hicks, and Jerry Sadowitz.[4]

A posthumous film about his life won Best Feature Documentary at the LA Indies in 2021.[5]


Cognito was born on 21 November 1958 in London of Irish and Italian ancestry. He first performed stand-up in 1985 and likened his stage name to Dr Jekyll creating Mr Hyde.[4]

He openly embraced his excesses, once throwing a television from a hotel window ("room service was late") and often bringing a hammer on stage, banging a nail into a wall and hanging up his hat then saying: "This lets you know two things about me. Firstly, I really don't give a shit. Secondly, I've got a hammer."[6]

In his memoir he said: "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[7] 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."[8]

His autobiography, A Comedian’s Tale was published in 1995 and revised for Kindle in 2013. He described it as "the best book about comedy I have ever writ".[8]

Cognito was a father of two, Ollie Barbieri (JJ Jones in the teen drama Skins) and writer Will Barbieri.[9]


While performing on 11 April 2019 at the Lone Wolf comedy club in Bicester, Cognito suffered an aortic dissection and collapsed during his set. Cognito had joked about having a stroke a few minutes earlier, 'imagine having a stroke and waking up speaking Welsh', so this was initially thought to be a part of the act.[10] Emergency services were called and he was declared dead at the scene.[11]

After his death tributes came from across the comedy community, including Jimmy Carr, Matt Lucas, Katy Brand, Mark Steel, Shappi Khorsandi and Arthur Smith.[12]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Hadoke, Toby (14 April 2019). "Ian Cognito obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 November 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ "Beyond Compere". The Guardian. 12 November 2002.
  4. ^ a b "Here comes trouble". Fest Magazine. 22 July 2013.
  5. ^ "Ian Cognito Film Wins Award". 7 September 2021.
  6. ^ "Comedians pay tribute to Ian Cognito after standup dies on stage". The Guardian. 12 April 2019. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  7. ^ "Slang (D) : DODGEMENTS". The Probert Encyclopaedia of Slang. Archived from the original on 2 May 2008. Retrieved 17 September 2022.
  8. ^ a b "'Shit, fan; fan, shit... let's see what happens' : Features 2013 : Chortle : The UK Comedy Guide". Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  9. ^ Barbieri, Will (7 May 2019). "My dad, Ian Cognito, was a master of comic timing – even when he died on stage". The Independent. Retrieved 3 November 2021.
  10. ^ "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.
  11. ^ "Ian Cognito: Comedian dies on-stage in Bicester". BBC. 12 April 2019.
  12. ^ "Ian Cognito Dies". 12 April 2019.

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