A 36-year-old Indian stand-up comedian collapsed and died on stage in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on July 19 while performing in front of a packed audience, who thought it was part of his act, Khaleej Times has reported. The incident occurred at Clavichord in Signature Hotel.

During his performance, Manjunath Naidu sat down on a bench and collapsed on the floor after complaining of high level of anxiety. While he suffered cardiac arrest, the audience laughed, thinking it was part of the show.

“He was the last act in the line-up,” said Naidu’s friend and fellow comedian Miqdaad Dohadwala. “He went on stage and was making people laugh with his stories. He was talking about his father and family. Everybody was enjoying. And then he got into a story of how he suffers from anxiety. And a minute into the story he collapsed. People thought it was part of the act. They took it as a joke as he was talking about anxiety and then collapsed. Everyone rushed to the stage.”

Dohadwala said paramedics reached the venue within 20 minutes but could not revive Naidu. “He stopped breathing in our hands,” Dohadwala added. “We took him to the hospital but after trying for 20 minutes they said Manju was gone. The man killed his performance and his performance killed him.”

The comedian said Naidu is survived by his brother. His parents died when he was young. “All in the arts and comedy circle are his family,” Dohadwala said. “We are all figuring out procedures to follow for the death certificate and last rites.”

Stand-up comedian Salman Z Qureshi told Gulf News that he stayed back to watch Naidu’s performance after his set. “I had almost skipped out performing on Friday, but Manju insisted I hang out and I guess maybe he had some premonition, or it was fate. I had already performed my set and was watching Manju, who was probably 15 minutes into his act before we noticed a dip in his energy.”

Qureshi said Naidu seemed happy before his performance and did not suffer from medical problems. “Manju did suffer from post performance stress but nothing serious,” he added. “He was always a happy guy. He dreamt big, always taught us to show gratitude for what we have, especially since he lost his parents at a young age.”