Robin Williams’ Inauspicious Movie Debut: “Can I Do It ‘Till I Need Glasses?”

By on August 11, 2015

On the one-year anniversary of his death — Robin Williams died on August 11, 2014 — we thought we’d share this post again, about his movie debut in the 1977 low-budget sex-romp comedy, “Can I Do It ‘Till I Need Glasses?”, which is mostly (and perhaps deservedly) forgotten today. We thought we’d sneak another peak at it again anyway, just for shits and giggles, if only to remind us of the long and celebrated career that Williams enjoyed shortly after this first rather inauspicious on-screen appearance.

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The Robert Levy-directed “Can I Do It?” is actually the sequel to 1975’s equally-raunchy (and more successful) If You Don’t Stop It…You’ll Go Blind, which if you think about it, provides both halves — the set-up and the punchline — to a pretty groan-worthy corny old joke: A mother discovers her son masturbating and tells him: “If you keep doing that you’ll go blind,” The boy asks her: “Can I do it till I need glasses?”

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This flick actually shares the same premise of much better comedy vignette movies like 1977’s Kentucky Fried Movie and 1974’s The Groove Tube, the kinds of joke-heavy movies that sort of elastically stretch a lot of bra strap snappingly bad jokes to their eventual breaking point. A better (?) example might actually be Jokes My Folks Never Told Me, also from 1977, which came along around the same time but is just as equally forgotten.

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You can see the punchlines coming from a mile off in these naughty blackout vignettes, which seem to have been based on the kinds of naughty jokes — about the Lone Ranger and Tonto, Indian names, nudist colonies, and our inane judicial system, among others — that people used to once-upon-a-time call “racy,” or even risqué, mostly because they’re based around bawdy sexual acts of one type or another.

There’s some softcore-ish nudity here too, usually courtesy of a buxom gal in some kind of stereotypical outfit. We should mention here that one of those buxom gals, the lovely Uschi Digard, appears here as a showgirl on an elephant (she also appeared in a memorable shower scene in Kentucky Fried Movie), and longtime L.A. buxom blonde icon Angelyne actually appears as Little Red Riding Hood in one of the skits (we’ve never seen her in a movie before, have you?). The men are also represented by assorted actors, including porn dude Ron Jeremy (fully-clothed). This is a movie you might wanna watch knowing that you could be pressing that “sad trombone” SFX app on your smart phone multiple times.

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So, it’s pretty safe to say that Can I Do It? didn’t quite fulfill the promise of the poster’s tagline — “It’s the nuttiest, naughtiest, looniest, gooniest, funniest madcap comedy of the year!” — and Williams really wasn’t even on screen long enough to give anyone a clear idea of he was destined for in just a few months in 1977; after this one, he appeared on the short-lived skit show, “The Richard Pryor Show,” which premiered on NBC on Tuesday, September 13, 1977, then he appeared as Mork from Ork on the ABC sitcom “Happy Days,” which, of course, eventually led to his (and Pam Dawber’s) successful spin-off sitcom “Mork and Mindy.”

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It’s interesting to note that the few scenes here — he plays a lawyer with a toothache — were originally cut from the film before it was released to theaters, but after he’d achieved some notoriety as an up-and-coming comic actor, they were added back to the movie by the the production company, Dauntless Productions, for a quick re-release to theatres in 1980. By now, of course, they were marketing the movie as “Robin Williams’ Movie Debut” and he was now, of course, credited as the film’s “star.”

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.