Whatever Happened to Big Comfy Couch’s Loonette? A Rare Convo With Alyson Court

Back in the ‘90s, Big Comfy Couch's Alyson Court wasn't just clowning around. She was ruling your childhood. Here, she weighs in on the clock stretch, those Steve Burns rumors and so much more.

By Jamie Blynn Feb 11, 2022 5:15 PMTags
Watch: Alyson Court Explains Infamous "The Big Comfy Couch" Clock Stretch

There's a whole micro-generation who aren't afraid of clowns. Why? Because they grew up watching The Big Comfy Couch.

Every week, these '90s-born millennials crowded around the TV set—this was well before streaming, kids—to watch Loonette and Molly (that's a clown and her dolly) tackle life's greatest problems. Well, greatest problems being those annoying dust bunnies and that damn clock stretch being near impossible to complete at home.

That undeniably flexible superhuman was Canadian actress Alyson Court, who did a helluva lot more than just chat with Major Bedhead in Granny Garbanzo's garden. As it turns out, the woman underneath Loonette's curly-haired wig, oversized glasses and red nose reigned over your childhood. You may have just not known it. Back then, she leant her voice to Clifford the Big Red Dog, The Care Bears, Beetlejuice and X-Men: The Animated Series—just to name a few. And today, she's still busy dominating the industry, voice directing Blue's Clues and tackling a slew of projects for Disney+ and Netflix.

Needless to say, she's no couch potato. The 48-year-old—married to comic book writer Z. M. Thomas and definitely not Steve Burns, FYI—sat down with E! News for a rare look into her life then and now.

So, are you ready to clown around?

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E! News: Let's go back to the beginning. What was the audition process like?

Alyson Court: The audition process was a bit strange. I was about 15 or 16 at the time and Cheryl Wagner, who's the creator for Big Comfy Couch, was working on Mr. Dressup with me. I had to read a story during an episode and that's when Cheryl just went, "Oh." She was suddenly picturing me in the overalls and the hair and with the clown nose. And she was like, "Yes." So, we made a demo. When the broadcaster came on board, they were like, "Well, we need to know she's the right one," so we did do a small audition process with a really interesting array of young, very talented actresses. But in the end, my experience from Mr. Dressup really sealed the deal. And that was that.

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E!: To you, what was so appealing about Loonette?

AC: I loved the physical comedy, especially because I personally have no skills. I'm incredibly klutzy. To this day, I can't really juggle despite years of being around awesome jugglers. And the good news was, with Loonette, she didn't have to be good at those stereotypical clown things. It was her journey interfacing in the world where she was a bit of a klutz and just a regular, awkward kid.

E!: Just about every fan will disagree with you saying you have no skills: You did the clock stretch! What was the training for that?

AC: I was a dance major, grade four to grade eight. I also took judo as a kid. Both are really good for building strength and flexibility. And then also during the clock stretch, I'm lying on the ground, so you put your leg over your head and gravity's going to help pull your foot down a little bit. So, it probably looks way more impressive than it actually is.


E!: Did you film a new stretch every episode?

AC: We shot a few and would reuse them. Depending on how many we were doing, let's give it two hours. The main thing was getting the setup and for them to actually paint the clock on the floor of the studio, that took the most time. The most uncomfortable part was that we were doing it on a cement floor. So, it looks like a nice, soft, fluffy rug, but it's cement.

E!: It's not an actual rug?!

AC: [Set dresser] Pam Mingo, she could make anything look like any surface. It wasn't the comfiest, ironically.

E!: Speaking of, was the couch actually comfy—and was it big?

AC: Yes and yes. The first couch we had was very well broken in. It lived at Cheryl's house throughout the year, so I think a lot of teenage parties happened on that couch.


E!: Can you still do the clock stretch today?

AC: Here's the deal: I can, but it takes me about two weeks to recover. Right before COVID, there was a fan convention and a young woman was like, "I want to do the clock stretch with you. C'mon." And I went for it: Leg right up over the head, the splits, everything. There may have been a beverage or two that evening to soothe some of the pain.

E!: OK be honest: What did you take from set?

AC: I still have one of the costumes because I do charity events. I never had one of the real Mollys, the flocked puppet. But I may or I may not have one of the couches. And it may or may not be in storage right now because my house is not big enough for it.

E!: Well it is the big comfy couch.

AC: And it really is big. It's seven feet tall, 10 feet wide and five feet deep. Good luck finding a place in Toronto for that.


E!: Would you ever consider a reboot?

AC: What I'd love to see is to introduce a new character who takes over the couch. I could certainly still be Loonette, but, you know, Loonette has grown. And that way you could have consistency with the old episodes into the new ones. And then a new young character, I think, would be lovely thing to see. A new, very childlike character, where you're not trying duplicate what somebody did before. So, expand the world. That would be my suggestion.

E!: Why do you think there's this enduring love for kids' shows?

AC: So Comfy Couch was really special in that, live action. And the majority of kids shows these days are not live action. I think the pacing, the original music, the fact that you had really funny people writing the show. They really made sure to put in things that parents would appreciate as well as kids without crossing a line. So, I think it stands up because they were just very, very careful and thorough in making the show.

Blue's Clues is another great example. Steve Burns is still involved. Donovan [Patton], a.k.a. Joe, he's involved, and Josh Dela Cruz, who's the new host, is just an absolute delight. So again, that engagement with a real live person, really including the person at home, but not in a super saccharin way. There are funny moments.


E!: You mention Steve Burns. There is an Internet rumor that you two were married. Would you like to dispel that?

AC: He turned me down. He said no to the proposal. So, I'm still getting over it. No, I do have a theory on how that actually ended up. I finally got to go to set, and I finally got to meet Steve. I brought my nose, and we took photos. I was like, "Oh, just hanging with my buddy, Steve." Someone read my tweet, thought it said hubby and there you go. The Internet was changed forever.

E!: Can fans expect another Loonette and Steve reunion?

AC: I have joked to Steve like, "We should do an adult web series for the kids who grew up. And I'm a therapist and you come to see me. We have sessions on my couch and you tell me about this imaginary dog you interact with." And he's really funny, so I would just sit there, take notes and let him talk. It would be brilliant.

Watch: What Steve Burns Has Been Up to Since "Blue's Clues"

E!: Do you share a similar experience of growing up on these monumental kids' shows?

AC: I think we both had similar reactions when we were first done, where it was like, "Get out." [Laughs]. He decided he didn't want anything more to do with it, from my understanding, and pursued music and a lot of other things. And same with me. I was like, "Anything but preschool, please." But once that edge comes off, you can appreciate what you had and go back with new eyes and newfound sense of joy. I don't want to speak for him, but the fact that he's involved with it again shows that sometimes we all just need a little bit of time away.

E!: When did you realize it was time to walk away?

AC: It was at the end of season five and I was doing so much traveling around, representing the show. It was pre-everyone-having-a-camera-on-their-phone, but that whole trying to control my personal life started to set in. Understandably so, it's a kids' property and you don't want someone to take the wrong photo at the wrong time. But I was 22, 23 and I wanted to live my life and enjoy being a young adult. I was finding it was very oppressive because I'd never experienced that kind of control before. So, I was like, "I can't do this anymore. I need to go." And we were done. They weren't expecting to come back. It wasn't until 2002 that we did. I was married by this point, and pregnant. So, I was a responsible adult.

Courtesy of Alyson Court

E!: Today, you focus less on being onscreen and more on voice work. What's the beauty of that for you?

AC: I'm looking for different challenges in life. I like to keep evolving. So, voice work has been wonderful. Certainly, when my son was younger, the scheduling was easier to manage as a single mom. Moving into voice directing was something of a different beast. In the United States, you have people who voice direct and star in the show. In Canada, there's a lot of, "Stay in your own lane." So, I knew that moving into voice directing was going to impact my voice acting career. Thankfully, I have American friends and production companies that ignore all that stuff. So, I still get to play. I would be lying if I didn't say I miss a bit more of the voice acting, but also, the shows that I'm working on right now that I'm directing are so good.

Getting to be part of the Blue's Clues crew, huge blessing. I get to direct people like Leslie Odom, Jr., Meghan Trainor and Rachel Bloom. I sit at home, because I'm directing via Zoom, and listen to people like H.E.R. sing and then tell her occasionally what to do for the dialogue. And it's like, "This is awesome."


E!: Of your work, why does Big Comfy Couch still stand out for you?

AC: Because of the international success south of the border, in the United States, I ended up having a lot of opportunities for charity work. And that will very quickly make you realize what's important in life.

Even meeting parents after their child has died and they still stood in line for six hours just to say, "Your show was the only thing that put a smile on my son's face right before he passed."

E!: Any final thoughts?

AC: Be good to each other. A promise is a promise, even to yourself. Do your best to stretch every day. No means no. Sometimes you need to be by yourself. And, love you like a crazy, always and forever.

Yes, spoken like the true star of your childhood.

(This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.)

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