Nancy Lewis, the Pythons’ Ticket to America, Dies at 76

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She alternated between the United States and England, working for Island Records and Track Records before landing at Buddah in 1971. Among her proudest accomplishments there, Mr. Jones said, was helping to introduce the English band Genesis in the United States. It was part of the Charisma distribution deal, which brought Ms. Lewis a stack of British records — all of Charisma’s releases.

“There were quite a few interesting records,” Ms. Lewis wrote in a program note for “No Naughty Bits,” a play by Steve Thompson based on the Pythons’ case against ABC, which was produced in London in 2011. “but what really caught my eye were two LPs at the bottom of the pile — ‘Another Monty Python Record’ and ‘Monty Python’s Previous Record.’”

She began taking the troupe’s records to FM radio stations, which she knew from her experience promoting rock acts were willing to try new things and play longer cuts. The Pythons started developing American fans, but there was still a reluctance to import the TV series. Converting the episodes from the European broadcast format to the format used in the United States was expensive at the time, and there was also a fear that “Flying Circus” was too full of Britishisms and British sensibility to interest Americans, not to mention too saucy.

But Ms. Lewis kept at it, and on Aug. 12, 1974, Mr. Palin was able to write in his diary (which he later published in book form): “Stop Press: Writing my diary at 11:15 when the phone rings. It’s Nancy from New York, almost speechless with good news. As from October, the entire Python first series is being screened on American TV by PBS.”

PBS affiliates began showing the series, and Ms. Lewis became the Pythons’ American manager. In 1975, when ABC (which had bought the rights to the show’s fourth season from Time-Life, which owned them) broadcast the first installment of the intrusively edited compilations, it was Ms. Lewis who brought the butchery to the Pythons’ attention. They were displeased.

“Any reference to bodily function, any slightly risqué word, anything, as Douglas Adams put it, ‘to do with life,’ was single-mindedly expunged,” Mr. Palin wrote in his diary.


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