Also, tough act to follow. An outstanding performance or individual. For example, Lucy was a terrific group leader—hers is a hard act to follow, or Bob's record is excellent—it will be a tough act to follow. This expression, dating from about 1900, was originally used for a particularly good vaudeville act that made the next act look poor by comparison. It soon was extended to other enterprises.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.