Ian Cognito

Ian Cognito
Birth namePaul Barbieri
Born(1958-11-21)21 November 1958
London, England
Died11 April 2019(2019-04-11) (aged 60)
Bicester, England
EducationUniversity of Bath
Years active1985–2019

Paul Barbieri[1] (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 short-tempered. He won the Time Out Award for Stand-up Comedy in 1999.[2]


He was born in London of Irish and Italian ancestry, and likened arriving at his stage name to Dr Jekyll creating Mr Hyde. He first performed stand-up comedy in 1985,[1] and by 2008 was described as Britain's "most banned" comic.[3] Cognito played with audience's sensibilities, as when winning cheers with an emotive speech against domestic violence and then puncturing it with a lengthy dance to Darius Danesh's hit "Rushes" in his crotchless lime harlequin costume.[4] Part of his act involved bringing a hammer on stage, banging a nail into a wall and hanging a hat off it, following it 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".[5]

In his autobiography, A Comedian’s Tale, he wrote:

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.[6]

His autobiography was originally published on his website in 1995,[1] and appeared on Kindle in 2013, billed as "the best book about comedy I have ever writ".[6] He claimed he had been banned from the most comedy clubs in the country,[5] and to have thrown a television set out of a hotel window "because room service was late".[4]

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