Season 39 began on September 28, 2013 and ended on May 17, 2014.
Prior cast members Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, and Jason Sudeikis had left the show at the end of season 38, and Weekend Update anchor Seth Meyers left mid-season on February 1st to prepare for his new job, hosting Late Night. Tim Robinson, who had joined the show as a cast member in the previous season, transferred to the writing staff.
The cast ballooned compared to the previous season, with six new people added before the start of the year: Beck Bennett, Noël Wells, John Milhiser, Kyle Mooney, Mike O'Brien, and Brooks Wheelan all joined the cast as featured players; O'Brien was promoted from the writers' room. Aidy Bryant, Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong were promoted to repertory status. Strong also became co-anchor of Weekend Update at the beginning of the season.
The season was more eventful than the last several. Kenan Thompson gave an interview to TV Guide in October, where he criticized the show's lack of black females on the cast, and publicly refused to continue to dress in drag on the show. This was a point of humor in the November 2 show, hosted by Kerry Washington. With the flurry of press attention that followed, Lorne Michaels and NBC decided to add a black woman to the cast, leading to Sasheer Zamata joining after Christmas break.
Also in the news was the shift in late night programming, an extension of the 2010 Tonight Show conflict, which meant SNL alum Jimmy Fallon moving from the 12:35 Late Night to the 11:35 Tonight Show, and current cast member Seth Meyers taking over the 12:35 show. The transition took place during the gap created by the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi; Meyers last show was February 1, his Late Night started in the last week of February, and when SNL resumed on March 1, Meyers was gone and head writer Colin Jost had joined the cast in his place. (Jost had been a writer since Season 31, and was head writer for seasons 38 and 39.) Jost joined Strong at the Weekend Update desk.
This was the final season for Nasim Pedrad. Her intent to leave SNL was on June 2014 to prepare for John Mulaney's new sitcom Mulaney. It was the only season for new hires Noël Wells, John Milhiser, Mike O'Brien, and Brooks Wheelan; Wells, Milhiser, and Wheelan were dropped from the show entirely, while O'Brien returned to the writers' room.
This season was also the last for long-time announcer Don Pardo, who died over the summer following the season finale.
The opening montage is still the same, only Cecily Strong’s photo was changed.
For this season only, after written by, additional sketch by scrolls up before writing supervised by. Pete Schultz is a weekend update producer. His credit is before production designers and after Alex Baze’s credit. Rachel Lynn is digital producer. Her credit is before Mary Ellen Mathews’ credit and after co producers.
Writing supervised by has now Bryan Tucker and Marika Sawyer. On some episodes, it adds John Solomon. Starting on the episodes where Colin Jost starts being a cast member on SNL, Marika Sawyer and John Solomon are writing supervised by. On the episode where Louis CK hosts, Robert Smigel is credited for additional sketch by. On the episode where Anna Kendrick hosts, Sam Means is credited for additional sketch by. On the episode where Seth Rogen hosts, Dan Mirk is credited for additional sketch by. On the episode where Andrew Garfield hosts, Mike Scollins is credited for additional sketch by. Scollins is also credited for that credit in the episode where Charlize Theron hosts. On the episode where Andy Samberg hosts, two people are credited for additional sketch by.
This is the last season in which Alex Baze was weekend update supervising producer. His retirement was after the show ended. His retirement was announced at the end of May.
- Claire Mulaney, the younger sister of former writer John Mulaney,and Groundlings member Mikey Day, joined the writing staff.
- Michael Che, a guest writer for the previous season, was hired full-time.
- Episodes with a cheers and applause track from the studio used on Hulu and sling versions are, September 28, 2013, October 5, 2013, November 2, 2013, December 21, 2013, January 18, 2014, January 25, 2014, February 1, 2014, March 1, 2014, March 8, 2014, March 29, 2014, April 5, 2014, April 12, 2014, May 3, 2014 and May 10, 2014.
- This season's head writers are Seth Meyers, Colin Jost, and Rob Klein. As of March, Jost and Klein will continue as co-head writers.
- Following the departure of Fred Armisen and Jason Sudeikis, Meyers, who was born in 1973, was the only cast member born before the premiere of the show on October 11, 1975. After Meyers left, everyone in the cast was younger than the show, with featured player Michael Patrick O'Brien being the eldest (O'Brien was born in 1976), and Jay Pharoah and Aidy Bryant being the youngest male and female, respectively.
- LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones joined the writing staff in January of 2014, after both had auditioned in December to join the cast.
- Second City, Chicago theater alum Katie Rich joined the writing staff in December of 2013.
- This was Don Pardo’s final season. He died before the primere of the 40th season.