No one used laughter’s power better than the sixteenth-century Florentine artist Benvenuto Cellini. He tells us so himself, repeatedly, in his boastful autobiography. Embodying the ultimate extreme of Renaissance individualism, he gloried in his own aggressive, hyper-masculine laughter. The hostile potential of laughter, so dangerous and close to violence in Cellini’s story, sheds light on laughter’s dubious reputation in Western culture. A long anti-laughter tradition extends back to classical times and early Christianity. For many religious authorities, the consummate laughers were the unbelievers, laughing Jesus and his followers to scorn. In everyday life, the laughter of insult sparked court cases, quarrels, and polemics, in Italy and elsewhere. Some aspects of aggressive laughter intensified in the Renaissance, with new possibilities for public ridicule raised by the spread of printing. At the same time, there were new attempts to curb excesses, both in malicious laughter and in the rowdy laughter that violated growing standards of decorum among social elites.