Can we talk? More to the point, is Joan Rivers listening?

Area members of the Communications Workers of America, picketing outside Constitution Hall, where the barb-tongued comedian performed two shows last night, wanted to make sure she got the message.

"Grow up, Joan. Our jobs are no joke," read one placard. Another offered the apt reminder "Talk is cheap, Joan."

What hath Rivers wrought? Telephone trouble. It began with that MCI television commercial she made last year, the one poking fun at telephone operators. Remember? "Who needs 'hello, hello, hello'?" she asked. Well, the CWA remembers.

"It inferred that we were stupid and made us look silly," said Daryl Beck of Local 2300. He believes Rivers would last "about five minutes" as an operator. After all, he said, "we can't tell our customers to grow up."

The CWA has been picketing Rivers' shows around the country since last summer, when the commercial, which is no longer being aired, was shown at the union's convention in Philadelphia. "Everybody hissed and booed," recalled CWA public affairs director Rozanne Weissman.

According to Weissman, CWA President Glenn Watts challenged Rivers to spend a day working as an operator. The comedian told Seattle union members she'd love to do it, but later the union was told that contractual obligations prevented Rivers from taking on the job.

If Rivers took notice of the picketing, there was no sign of it. Wearing a form-fitting sequined gown and dragging a feather boa across the stage, she never even mentioned the CWA. Given the treatment of those she did mention, that's probably just as well.

* On Elizabeth Taylor: "She lost weight! They took her to Three Mile Island and melted her down."

* On Richard Simmons: "He makes Liberace look like a Green Beret."

* On Marie Osmond: "Her knees have been together longer than the Marx Brothers.