Open Mic

The Cafe is home to several weekly and monthly Open Mic events. Our stage is home to artists of all phases, and our enthusiastic crowds are ideal for rookies and seasoned performers alike.

Though music and poetry are among the most popular categories of Open Mic performance, these events are open to all forms of expression, and a unique mix of comics, story-tellers, and miscellaneous performers have graced our stages.

Our open mics operate on a first-come-first-serve basis. Interested performers may line up at the venue 1 hour before doors open (e.g. 8pm for a 9pm show). When doors open, the sign up sheet is passed around and the first 25-30 names on the list receive 5 minutes to perform.

Our Open Mic Mondays, each Monday at 9pm, are among our most popular weekly events. Participants typically begin lining up around 5-6pm to sign up for the Open Mic when doors open. We also feature the following monthly Open Mics:

  • ALL THAT! Poetry, Hip-hop & Jazz Open Mic (Every First Wednesday of the Month), 9:30pm

  • Words: Hip-Hop, Poetry & Jazz Open Mic (Every Third Saturday of the Month), 9:30pm

  • Urbintel Presents: “Verses” Open Mic (Last Saturday of the Month), 10pm

For tickets and specific dates, please visit our Event Calendar.

Poetry Slam

The first poetry slam in New York City was held at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in 1989. Decades later, our Slam programming forms a key part of the city’s cultural life, and we remain the venue most commonly associated with slam poetry in the United States and abroad. Today’s Nuyorican Poetry Slam is the result of our tradition of talented hosts, amazing performers and heart-stopping performances. Each one has helped to develop the legendary Poetry Slam reputation that is associated with the Cafe. Our slam programs have received coverage from PBS, CNN, the Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine and NPR, and a social justice grant from the Rubin Foundation.

Poetry Slam at the Nuyorican is truly poetry of and by the people. Winners of any Nuyorican Poetry Slam are chosen entirely by our varied audience members, a continual stream of changing faces, ages and backgrounds that make up New York City on any given night. Audience judges are not required to have any special skills or history and that’s what makes our slam so exciting and unpredictable.

Each week, we host two Slam events, our Wednesday Night Slam Open and Friday Night Poetry Slam. Our Wednesday Night Slam is an open-mic-style poetry competition in which members of the public are welcome to share their skills. Winners of the Wednesday Night Slam Open are eligible to compete in that week’s Friday Night Slam, and are featured with the Spotlight Poets curated by Friday’s host. If you win a Friday Night Slam, you may compete in one of the five Semi-Final Poetry Slams throughout our season. Each Friday Night Slam also includes a post-show Open Room, a non-competitive poetry open mic for attendees.

Five Semi-Final winners will compete in our yearly Grand Slam Finale, which generally happens in April. The winner of that slam takes the Grand Slam Champion title for that year and immediately qualifies to be on our National Team. The rest of our yearly National Team comes out of three Run-Off Slams, which happen after the Grand Slam Finale. We send these team members to compete yearly in the National Poetry Slam. To learn more about our National Teams through the years, click here.

Hip Hop

Since the late ‘80s-early ‘90s, the Cafe has been a platform for generations of Hip Hop artists and a key contributor to the form’s evolution. Giving rise to such fabled MCs as Big Pun, Jim Jones and Lloyd Banks, we remain dedicated to honoring Hip Hop’s legends, and supporting and promoting its rising stars. Our audiences come to experience the deep history of our stage that has been embedded in both mainstream and underground Hip Hop culture.

The Cafe offers a variety of events for Hip Hop artists and fans, including our All THAT! and Words showcases, and our Rookie of the Year open mics. Please check our Calendar for this month’s concerts and special events.


The Cafe is proud to be a home for Downtown theatre’s most innovative artists, and our unique setting invites audiences to broaden their perceptions and interact with groundbreaking works onstage. Our Theater Program has received an OBIE Grant for Excellence in Theater, and productions at the Cafe have been honored with over 30 Audelco Awards through the years. Our award-winning productions include “Julius Caesar Set in Africa” (8 Audelco Awards), “Don’t Explain” (7 Audelco Awards), “Life During Wartime” (5 Audelco Awards), “Shango de Ima” (11 Audelco Awards) and “Monk” (2 Audelco Awards).

Visit our calendar to see a list of upcoming theater events, and take part the Cafe’s rich theatrical tradition.


The Cafe has long championed the use of poetry as a means of social empowerment for marginalized individuals, particularly minority and underprivileged youth. As such, at educators’ requests, we proudly offer workshops for students, teachers, school administrators, and arts leaders. Serving over 6,000 people each year, our workshops employ slam poetry techniques to bolster and encourage community engagement, literacy, public speaking skills, professional development and academic performance for a range of young people and adults.

Visit our Calendar page for a list of current educational programming, or contact us at to learn more about the opportunities we offer