The thirty-eighth season of Saturday Night Live premiered on September 15, 2012 and concluded it on May 18, 2013. Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg had left at the end of the previous season, and Abby Elliott had been fired. This was the first season for Aidy Bryant and Cecily Strong as cast members, and the only season for Tim Robinson, who joined at the start of the season and moved to the writers' room for season 39. Vanessa Bayer, Taran Killam and Jay Pharoah were all upgraded to repertory status. Kate McKinnon was still a featured player until next season. Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, and Jason Sudeikis left the show at the end of the season, as did longtime writer Jim Downey.
The opening montage is changed with the words SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE being blue. New York footage is still shown but the cast are still photos.
- Upright Citizens Brigade Theater performers Josh Patten and Neil Casey joined the writing staff.
- Two election-themed episodes of the spin-off Saturday Night Live Weekend Update Thursday, which aired on September 20, 2012 and September 27, 2012.
- Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck become the newest members of the Five-Timers Club, with the former being the youngest member of the club, as of 2013.
- Christoph Waltz was the first German-speaking host on Saturday Night Live.