Phoenix, for instance, spent many months maintaining an elaborate hoax. While you have to admire the commitment, I can't really see how all that effort was justified. I mean, to do something so involved and extreme and for so long, you've have to end up with some earth shattering insights into the human condition. But what's he shown us? That journalists and talk show audiences can be fooled easily? That we're all pop culture junkies who are finding it increasingly different to tell the difference between reality and fiction? It's not like these questions haven't been addressed many times before. The fact that he thinks what he did was so important and worthwhile is the most revealing thing to come out of the project. I get the impression he's the one who's a bit too obsessed with the media - not society in general.
Regarding Stephen Colbert's cringe-inducing performance at a recent congressional hearing: Sure, it sounds like a very ballsy thing to do. But again it was extremely arrogant. Pompous blowhards they may be, but politicians are serving the people when they have these meetings, and if you hijack one of them so you can hold the whole thing up to ridicule then you are also showing contempt for the people who elected them.
Sacha Baron Cohen, another performer cited in the article, is much better satirist than both of them. He hits more targets and is far more versatile, witty and courageous. He also manages to be laugh out loud funny the whole time he is on screen. That proves to me that he doesn't take himself too seriously, and always remembers that what he is doing is ultimately more about entertainment than anything else.