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Tig Notaro: Hello Again review – all the right notes, except on piano

Tig Notaro has never had an interval onstage until now – “intermissions”, in her word, not being a thing for standups in the US. So it’s apt that Hello Again really is a show of two halves. The first finds Notaro at the top of her game, reporting back in her studied, laconic style on new parenthood, her health (albeit not as dramatically as in the show that made her name) and unexpected crushes. The second finds her taking to the piano – a medium for which, and here’s the gag, she has no aptitude whatsoever.

I admired the playfulness of that second act, the beaming impertinence with which the 52-year-old pushes the joke of her tunelessness right to the end of the show. But it tested my patience, too.

The first half is stronger. Here is an instrument, standup comedy, from which Notaro can summon any tune she likes. The opening set-piece, about being scooped out of her marital bed by a moustachioed emergency-services hunk, plays deliciously against “old-fashioned lesbian” type. An anecdote about Notaro’s faulty hearing is a masterpiece of comic productivity, as she returns over and again, from different angles, to the humiliation of her misapprehending a throwaway remark about Nicole Kidman’s height.

Related: Tig Notaro: ‘Can I recall a bad gig? The first two years of my career’

Scarcely a word is wasted, as our host paces the stage, each step as deliberate as her itemising – detail by excruciating detail – this or that moment of everyday indignity. Here, a gesture of social panic by her chiropractor, momentarily uncertain of Notaro’s gender, is worked to yield a rich comic load. There, a trip to her physio becomes, thanks in part to her physio’s blindness to humour, a display of ritual public ignominy.

Notaro even gets to show her crowd-work chops, when her glitching microphone prompts a cack-handed heckle from the stalls. After this standup masterclass, Notaro’s sub-Les Dawson, duff-pianist act can’t help but feel like a comedown. Yes it’s sweetly silly, and her pleasure in straying this far off-piste is fun to share. But the joke of Tig’s talentlessness makes less impact than the talent for joking that lights up the first hour of her show.