Since announcing that I have bought a hot-air balloon, the offers are piling up

TV loves nothing better than tension and tragedy, me learning to fly ticked every box

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Following last week’s column announcing that I had bought a hot-air balloon, I was inundated with advice from other “balloonists”. Most of it was along the lines of – “welcome to endless hours sitting in a field waiting for the wind to drop”, which sounded slightly less than glamorous.

Other interest was from companies who wondered whether I’d like to fly a “sponsored” balloon? The deal being that they pay for a balloon to be made with their logo all over it, and then I get to fly around the country like some floating billboard. It doesn’t really appeal but I suppose there is some potential comedy value in it, depending on the brand. Not all balloons are the traditional circular shape – so it is feasible that I could float around the country suspended from a giant hammer or a bra….

Ages ago, when I was at the BBC, I did a sketch where I drove around London in a car supposedly sponsored by a tampon company. On top of the car was a 7ft tampon and the logo on the side read “Sponsoring Britain’s 95th best comedian since 2003”. The looks I got from passers-by were a heady mixture of withering pity and sheer disgust. In a balloon I wouldn’t be able to see the expressions on the faces of the people below, unless I was about to crash-land into their village, in which case I’d probably have other things to worry about.

Television companies were also quick to try to get in on the act. They are always on the lookout for something new, something “different”. Most of the ideas were about documenting me learning to fly a balloon. TV loves nothing better than tension and tragedy, and the idea of me being let off in a hot-air balloon clearly ticked every box. Other companies were a little more adventurous and started pitching ideas that involved me, after learning to fly the thing, attempting some dangerous balloon challenge.

I countered and started to pitch the idea of a real-life “Balloon Debate”. I got nothing but blank faces and I quickly realised that the concept was not widely known outside exclusive private schools. For the benefit of the great unwashed, a Balloon Debate is when a number of speakers try to gain the approval of the audience so as not to be thrown out of the balloon (as it’s sinking and we need to jettison ballast). I suggested a form of debate in which I flew politicians around the country and chucked them out of the balloon when they got annoying.

Despite the obvious appeal of such a show the powers-that-be decided it was too “risky” and “not realistic as a prospect”. It’s this kind of retrograde, unadventurous thinking that has led to the state of television today. Someone did actually pitch a good idea and so, weirdly enough, you might just see something of my balloon and me on the goggle-box at some stage. Unfortunately it won’t be me hurling Nigel Farage out of the basket over Swindon, but you can’t have everything….

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