Ian Cognito scared the shit out of me. But in a good way. A keep you on your toes, what the hell’s he gonna do next good way. On 11th April 2019 Ian Cognito died on stage, performing at a comedy club in Bicester. He will be truly missed.
I first met Cog’s pretty early in my stand up career. Probably somewhere around 2001/2002. I’d heard the stories, the legends, the amount of hotels and comedy clubs he was band from… and I was sort of dreading the first time I would meet or have to be on a bill with him. It wasn't so much that I didn't think I’d like him (I love a good story about a Hollywood superstar or British theatre lovey in the 70’s drunk somewhere being a lunatic and a diva), I was more worried that Cog’s wouldn't like me. I just knew in the pit of my stomach I just wasn't;t his type of person. Young, seemingly clever and educated whimsical storyteller. Yup, he was going to eat me alive and get very angry at my very existence.
And then my time came. A call from a booker asking me to do one of those lovely (if you’re 22) three day tours of part of England that sometimes popped up in your diary. This one was a tour of various towns in Cornwall. Just me and a headliner with the local promoter MCing the shows. Lovely. It was only a few days before the shows I was told the headliner would be Ian Cognito. I would have to pick him up in Bristol on my way past, drive him to Newquay (at least a six hour drive), then perform with him for the next three nights and probably hang out with him in the days too. This, as you can imagine, was not the idea first meeting I was looking for. Like I said… the stories, the legends. Oh, god.
As it turned out, Cog’s was a bloody gentleman. Warm, friendly, genuinely interested and funny as hell. Occasionally with a naughty twinkle in his eyes but nothing like the worst case scenario I’d been worrying about..
On the first night, after a pretty good show for both of us (which I think helped me earn some of Cog’s respect) we ended up back at the house we where staying at (god knows who’s, some friend of the promoters probably) drinking in the lounge. Me, Cog’s, the sound guy and a couple of girls. It was a lot of fun. Then at about 2am I remember seeing something in Cog’s eyes as he told a story. A flash of something. Something I just knew in my tummy was a signal I should probably go to bed. And not in 5 minutes. Not at the end of my drink. Now. I should go to bed now. So I did. And filled with booze as I was, I slept like a log.
The next morning I came downstairs to find Cog’s still sat in the same seat he’d been the night before – only now completely sober – with the remains of the rooms main window, smashed and broken, creaking in the wind behind him. He looked at me with those cheeky, almost child like blue eyes, smiled and said – “Do you think they’ll notice?” I said I thought they probably would. He smiled again and said “I’ll just tell them I was stopping a burglar.”
And that was Ian Cognito. A great guy to know and to be around… if you knew when to go to bed.
I will miss both him and the legends.