Gwar started in 1984 as a joke by lead singer Dave Brokie. At the time, Brokie was playing in a semi-serious Punk band called Death Piggy. One night, he decided to dawn a costume mask as a joke and open for Death Piggy under the moniker "Gwaaarrrgghhlllgh." Brokie soon realized that more people were coming to shows to see Gwaaarrrgghhlllgh than Death Piggy, so he shortened the name to Gwar and phased out the Punk band.
The name Gwar is a more concise version of the band's original name, Gwaaarrrgghhlllgh. Some fans incorrectly believe that the name is an acronym for something, such as "God what an awful racket." Another incorrect view is that the name is playing on an already existing acronym, such as GAWR – Gross Axle Weight Rating.
Gwar is notorious for spraying their audiences with fluids during their live shows. The liquids, which are meant to look like blood and other bodily fluids, are often nothing more than water mixed with powdered food coloring. The thicker fluids are made from a seaweed extract called carrageenan. The band doesn't use stage blood because it dries solid and could potentially ruin their costumes.
One trademark of Gwar's live show is their constant parody of notable politicians and celebrities. Some of the characters the band has satirized include every American president since Ronald Reagan, O.J. Simpson, Paris Hilton, Lady Gaga, and Snooki.
guitarist Zach Blair used to be in Gwar. Blair played the character Flattus Maximus from 1999 to 2002 but only appeared on one of the metal band's albums – 2001's Violence Has Arrived
. In 2007, the Austin, Texas guitarist joined Chicago punk band Rise Against and appeared on 2008's Appeal to Reason
and 2011's Endgame
Since 1989, only two of the major five characters in Gwar have been played by one person: singer Oderus Urungus (Dave Brockie) and drummer Jizmak Da Gusha (Brad Roberts.) Jizmak is the only character in the band that does not wear body armor as it impedes his ability to perform.
In 2006, Gwar opened a gallery show called "The Art of Gwar" in their hometown of Richmond, Virginia. The exhibition displayed the many props, costumes, cartoons, and paintings created by The Slave Pit (Gwar's art and effects studio) for the band's live shows over the years.
On November 3, 2011, Gwar guitarist Cory Smoot, who had portrayed the character of Flattus Maximus since 2002, was found dead on the band's tour bus. Gwar was on tour at the time, preparing to enter Manitoba, Canada via the North Dakota border. A medical examiner concluded that Smoot died from complications from a pre-existing coronary artery disease. Shortly after his death, Gwar singer Dave Brockie announced that the Flattus Maximus character would be retired in honor of Smoot.