MANY actresses have complained, rightly, about the ageism in film and television. But it turns out that many older stand-up comedians have a genuine issue with TV, too.

Some of them are disappointed that, merely because they have passed the age of 50, they cannot get onto such popular hit shows as Live at the Apollo, despite their talent and their hard-won experience. But rather than merely grumble, they have decided to do something about it.

The upshot is The Comedians at the Kings, a two-night event next week at the Glasgow International Comedy Festival. Featuring 24 comedians, including John Moloney, Fred MacAulay, Jo Caulfield, Janey Godley, Richard Herring, Michael Redmond and Jojo Sutherland, it will be professionally packaged into six half-long shows and offered to commissioning editors at everywhere from Channel 4 to Netflix, Sky, Comedy Central and the BBC. It’s an interesting idea, to say the least.

The idea occurred to Moloney while he was watching Live at the Apollo in October 2016. He admired the show but wondered, why isn’t there a show tailored for talented older comedians? It was an impulsive sort of idea, but he knew it could work. When he put it out on Facebook, many comedians responded by saying, ‘This is a great idea – let’s get it made’. And now, after countless phone calls and meetings and emails, it is finally coming off.

“People of a certain age and experience aren’t represented as much as they should be on television stand-up,” says Moloney, who has entertained audiences across the world. “I thought, instead of sitting around in dressing-rooms, moaning about it, let’s make a show, and take it to the broadcasters, telling them, Here are 24 comics each with at least a quarter-century of experience, all headliners in their own right, and who are the unsung heroes of British comedy. They smash it in the clubs night after night but aren’t, in my opinion, getting as much exposure as they ought to be getting.

“This isn’t a rival to any of these shows that are already on TV, like Live at the Apollo, which is a great show,” he adds. “It is more of a complement to them.”

He makes a wider point in that, in entertainment as a whole, there’s an imperative to find the newest, youngest sensation. “It’s just that I think we should celebrate experience as much as we celebrate new people, the next new big thing. Let’s celebrate what we already have. Let’s consolidate, and look at the fact that there are people like Michael, Janey Godley, Jo and Fred – they are all fantastic, headlining stand-ups.

“It’s not so much that they deserve a break as the fact that they have had a break, because they’ve been working professionally for a quarter of a century. But I believe they deserve more exposure.

“Also, I think the television-watching demographic has got older. My kids watch things in blocks, like Netflix, and I think there is space for people with experience who, by definition, are a little bit older, to get television exposure. So I think there is an issue, certainly.”

From the outset, Moloney knew that funding would be key. It would need a crowdfunding approach, at least. And crowd-fund it he did: the comedians have each contributed £1,000 from their own pockets to help produce the show. Additionally, he says, “a few friends of mine who are, if you like, philanthropists, or rich benefactors, have chucked in a few quid as well." One “very well known” comedian pledged £5,000 towards the show within two days of being contacted.

“So it’s a self-made, self-funded idea. It has been a revolutionary way of doing it. Normally, you would go to a broadcaster and ask for some money to make a pilot, whereas we’re approaching it from the other direction: we’re making six half-hours and post-producing them to, obviously, a professional standard, and taking the finished product to broadcasters.”

Richard Melvin is the executive producer of the project. He began his broadcasting career as a Radio Forth volunteer during the Fringe, and went on to work for BBC Radio Scotland, producing the Fred MacAulay Show for almost five years. He founded Dabster Productions 12 years ago and has produced some 300 hours of radio for the BBC.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland recently Melvin said the pool of comedians for the new show included “some of the greatest comedians working in the UK that we’ve managed to get together.” Some of them, however, “have not quite had that break on TV or have not quite had that break on the radio. But they absolutely deserve that.”

He added: “I heard a couple of stories about people who were doing auditions for shows like Live at the Apollo and other stand-up shows, and the guys that we have booked onto our Comedians at the King’s, were all being invited down to do auditions for these other shows. The producers had no intention of putting them on the TV; they just wanted to make sure that the audience in the room had a great night. So they were just looking for that new, skinny-jeans [and] haircut comic …” He did, however, concede that as a comedy producer he and his colleagues “were always, as producers, looking for that next bright new thing.”

Speaking on the same programme, Jojo Sutherland, who will be appearing at the King’s, said: “As soon as John Moloney mentioned it, it was like, ‘Of course’. It’s absolutely the obvious thing to do.

“We’re all kind of conditioned into that idea,” she added, “that it’s up-and-coming new comics and the next best thing, rather than sort of looking retrospectively, and so that’s what has been so fantastic about [the King’s show].” It was ground-breaking that the comedians had all chipped in £1000, she added, but she said it made “complete logical sense” given that comedians could “chip in eight times that for a Fringe show where you definitely will get over-looked as an older comedian … It’s not rocket science. It’s a really good idea.”

But it isn't just age that is a barrier, as Janey Godley points out: "There is a bigger picture. If this [show] gets on the telly, it will be the first time you'll see a working-class Scottish woman - and forget my age - on national telly, doing stand-up."

It has, she believes, taken far too long. "This is 2018. I was with the head of the BBC in London and I said to him, can you name a Scottish working-class woman who has done stand-up on the Michael McIntyre Roadshow or Mock the Week or Live at the Apollo, and he just stared at me and he went, 'No'. And I said, can you imagine every wee Scottish lassie watching these programmes and noticing that there was no-one who spoke like her? What is she going to make of that?

When Godley was growing up in the seventies, in Shettleston, she was weaned on such TV comedians as Morecambe and Wise, and Bob Monkhouse, and even then she was aware that there was no-one "who was like me or who spoke like me. So you imagine, I'm now doing a job that I have never seen done by anybody else on telly or in the mainstream media. We can't break that barrier but we can break the age barrier.

"It would be nice, wouldn't it, if people who had honed their craft got more exposure on TV. It's like the old saying about porn, that folk would rather watch it young people doing it badly than old people doing it well."

Godley laments the absence of older Scottish women from the comedy circuit generally. "You get great older women in Scotland," she says. "You can't tell me that there isn't an aunt in your family who you think wouldn't make a comedian, an older auntie who was the funniest in the family."

There is, then, much to be said about comics who are well past the first flush of youth. “Some of the best comics in Britain are now living on to a ripe old age,” observes Moloney. “We lost Ken Dodd last week, and he was 90. There are people like that who we’ve lost over the years, and it’s only then that sometimes people realise just how good they were. So this is a celebration of experienced comics.”

• The Comedians at the King’s is at the King’s Theatre, Glasgow, on March 20 and 21. Tickets (£12.50) are available from or by phoning 0844 873 7353.