For many years, pharmaceutical companies directed their efforts solely to professionals, calling themselves “ethical” for doing so. A chief medium for reaching physicians was the privately-circulated journal, which thrived on a mailing list comprised of potential prescribers. None typified this more than Ridendo, a magazine distributed to French physicians from the 1930s into the 70s, with more than 440 issues published over the course of its 44-year reign.
The name itself comes from the French verb rire — to laugh — and may have been inspired by the Latin phrase castigat ridendo mores, which characterizes a particular kind of satire that "criticizes customs through humor." And indeed, during its heyday in the 1930’s, Ridendo served up some 30 pages of medically-themed cartoons, poems, jokes, puzzles, contests and humorous articles, publishing — at its peak — as much as twice a month. A typical joke from an issue from 1938 (which, in all fairness, does not improve by translation) has one man inquiring of another who has come to France to take the cure, “Vitell or Vichy?” “No," replies the other man. "Bordeaux or Burgundy.”
Ridendo’s humor, cartoons and jokes reflected the evolution of French cultural life over the course of its multi-year run, with later issues perhaos slightly more sophisticated in their tone and perspective. Editorial content — including cartoons and jokes — were submitted by artists, designers and cartoonists, as well as from physicians themselves. Most memorably, the cover of each issue featured a wry, colorful drawing, usually incorporating a physician, nurse, or other health professional. These were initially designed by the French commercial artist Jacques Touchet, and in later years, were provided by numerous artists including medical illustrator Raymond Lep.