Even Nero (r. 54-68), not noted for his niceness, allowed a certain latitude to his mocking critics and these were probably mimes – actors who could take it upon themselves to improvise on stage and send some satirical sallies out into the auditorium.
Despite all the disasters and abuses which befell the empire under his rule and his renowned cruelty, Suetonius tells us that:
… it is surprising and of special note that all this time he bore nothing with more patience than the curses and abuse of the people, and was particularly lenient towards those who assailed him with gibes and lampoons.
Mirum et vel praecipue notabile inter haec fuerit nihil eum patientius quam maledicta et convicia hominum tulisse, neque in ullos leniorem quam qui se dictis aut carminibus lacessissent exstitisse.
Source: Gaius Suetonius (c. 70-after 130), `Nero’, in The Lives of the Caesars, trans. J.C. Rolfe, 2 vols, Loeb (London: Heinemann, 1914; repr. and rev. 1930) vol. 2, book 6, p. xxxix.
Image credit: Portrait of Emperor Nero, Abraham Janssens I (1575-1632), The First Twelve Roman Emperors Series, Schloss Caputh; photo by Ralf Roletschek