Ian Cognito

Ian Cognito
Birth namePaul John 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 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).

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