File image.

London - British standup comedian Ian Cognito has died while performing a show in southern England.

The South Central Ambulance Service said Friday it was called to The Atic bar in Bicester on Thursday evening "but sadly one patient passed away at the scene."

The show's host, Andrew Bird, told the BBC Cognito was not feeling well before going on stage, but insisted on performing.

Bird said the 60-year-old had even joked "Imagine if I died in front of you lot here."

According to reports, Cognito sat down on a stool while breathing heavily, before falling silent. The crowd thought it was a joke and continued to laugh until it became clear something was wrong. Two off-duty nurses and a police officer began CPR and an ambulance was called. Cognito was pronounced dead at the scene.

Comedian Jimmy Carr tweeted about Cognito, whose real name was Paul Barbieri: "The audience thought it was part of the act. Died with his boots on. That's commitment to comedy.

"I'll never forget his kindness when I started out and how god damn funny he was," Carr wrote.

Fellow comedian Jack Whitehall also paid tribute on Twitter, saying Cognito "was always so much fun, had his own mythology on the circuit, his exploits [were] legendary."