Now fellow comedian Eric (Just Eric) adds his own tribute…
When I saw the headline BRITISH COMEDIAN DIES ONSTAGE, I thought: Oh, that will be Cogs…
Then, when I saw the full story, I was devastated to see that, tragically, my instinct was correct.
Like Malcolm Hardee before him, probably no-one ever expected to read the words “After a long battle with illness, he passed away peacefully in his sleep.”
Cogs just wasn’t that kind of guy.
He died as he lived, in the spotlight, commanding full attention, with no-one quite believing what they were witnessing.
We all have our own memories of Cogs and bizarrely I have enjoyed reading the stories that others have shared of this marvellous mischievous maverick.
I first met Ian Cognito at Malcolm Hardee’s Up the Creek comedy club when, as he passed my table en route to the stage, he scooped up my pint and drank it while headlining the night.
The Greenwich club was a renowned bear pit and it wasn’t long before he got his first heckle. Whenever this happens, it is the stock-in-trade of the comedian to deliver smart-put downs in response and the more cutting they are the better; and Cogs could cut anyone to the quick. But Cogs didn’t just embarrass his detractors: he went further, much further. He would intimidate them.
So, climbing across the seats in the direction of the hapless heckler and standing astride the back of the chairs either side of him, Cogs delivered his withering repost, while towering over the now cowering heckler. Not surprisingly, it was the only heckle that he received that night.
Given what I had just witnessed from his awesome onstage persona, I did consider saying nothing and just getting myself another beer. But, with what I now realise was a somewhat foolhardy and reckless regard for the ‘perceived’ risk to my personal safety, I summoned up all my courage and, after the show, I challenged him about drinking my pint.
I was then astonished to find him most apologetic. He had just made an honest mistake, confusing my Guinness for his own, which he then realised he had absent-mindedly left on the bar.
So he bought me a replacement and, with a mutual love of the black stuff and comedy in common, it was the start of a friendship I could never have expected. Over the next few years, I did numerous gigs with this comedic whirlwind, who would proudly announce to audiences that he had been banned from more comedy clubs than any other comic.
But that brash onstage (and sometimes offstage) persona belied the sensitive, caring, supportive soul which lay beneath.
I should imagine that anyone who ever had the privilege of being invited to his home will have the memory of that visit etched on their memory forever.
I certainly remember my first visit. Pulling up in a layby in the middle of nowhere, thinking: Why on earth would he want me to meet him here? Only to find Cogs suddenly emerging from a bush and extending an invitation to climb over a crash barrier and down a bank. Where, only a few yards from the busy highway, a boat is moored on a slow-flowing river in an unfeasibly serene spot.
In my experience the standard invitation would include a meal, which Cogs would cook in his galley while his guests sat on the bank enjoying the unexpected calm after the long drive from London.
Then, over lunch, we were treated to a side of this quiet, reflective, thoughtful man that his audiences would probably never get to see.
Then, it seems, no-one would be allowed to leave, without first choosing a book from his shed to take with them. I remember choosing The Book of Shit Towns.
Then it would be back into the car and on to the gig, where it was sometimes difficult to reconcile that the astonishing and aggressive performance the audience and fellow performers alike were treated to that evening was delivered by the same man who had humbly dished-up the pasta a shortly before, while sharing stories about his children.
When I first visited Paul (his real name was Paul Barbieri) and discovered that he lived on a boat, he said: “It’s the most interesting thing about me.”
Which is patently untrue.
No, it isn’t, Cogs, YOU are the most interesting thing about you!
Some things I know. Some things I will never know.
One thing I do know is that the world of comedy has just become a far less interesting place without you…
We have lost another shining light from our world.
What is it that is said about the flame that burns brightly…?